Connected & Prepared – Community Emergency Response

The MVA took the initiative in 2019 to develop a Community Emergency Response Plan (CERP) to be implemented in case of emergencies, such as isolating floods and fires, in addition to more localised emergencies such as power and communication outages, fallen trees etc. 

In our role of lobby group, a key part of this plan is to continue to put pressure on outside agencies (Council, BoM, Endeavour Energy, Telstra etc) to remind them we exist. We need flood mapping completed by the Council and proper collection, forecasting and dissemination of flood information by BoM about the Macdonald Valley. 

Wardens

We are setting up a team of Wardens to manage small areas within the five sectors of the valley:

  1. Wolombi Rd
  2. Upper Macdonald Road
  3. St Albans
  4. St Albans Road
  5. Settlers Road

The wardens are currently part of a Whats App group that proved very successful in the recent 2022 flood events. Information can be disseminated quickly and then passed by wardens to isolated neighbours to ensure everyone is connected and looked after.

The result of this warden network so far has been a demonstrable improvement in communications with, and action by, The SES, Council(s), Local Police, Endeavour Energy and even Telstra.

Once we have the UHF Radios in place (see below) this communication task will become much easier and more reliable, not needing to rely on generators and satellite internet to communicate.

SURVEY

In late 2021 we produced a survey to help with our knowledge of the valley and the areas that become isolated. This has informed the creation of sectors, sub-sectors and islands, resulting in the Warden system being set up to look after these local areas.

The information will also be used to prepare unique Community Emergency Response Plans ((CERP), to be provided to every property along with an Emergency Grab Bag and UHF radio.

Privacy
Privacy of Information is paramount. All information is held in confidence on a single secure password protected spreadsheet, accessible only by key MVA Wardens and one SES official. Information can not be shared or downloaded and will only be supplied to nominated local RFS and SES officials as required in an emaergany situation. They will not have access to the spreadsheet. Information will not be shared with Council.

You will of course have access to all information relating to your own property and can share it with whoever you wish.

How can I help?
We are asking you to help us identify how you and your immediate neighbours become isolated in emergencies, what safety procedures you have in place (such as a fire plan) and what backup systems you have in place in case of an isolating emergency (if any). We are asking you to provide us with some basic information by completing the attached survey.

You can still help us to help you by completing the Emergency Response Survey if you have not done so already. 

Grant Funding 

In February 2022 the MVA heard that we were successful in our bid for $280,227.00 in federal funding under the Black Summer Bushfire Grant Program.

This funding is to be used over 2-3 years to build a more resilient and better equipped Macdonald Valley community, to better cope with the impact of emergencies and disasters.  The project aims to address major communication problems highlighted by the he 2019/20 bushfires and subsequent major flood events. We will:

  1. Create A Residents UHF Radio (CB Radio) network and equip each property to enable an alternate valley-wide communications relay conduit.
  2. Provide Emergency Kit Bags, ready with items that will help residents survive and sustain initial recovery from a disaster.
  3. Provide a unique Community Emergency Response Plan (CERP) to each property.

The Grant application was prepared by the MVA’s Community Emergency Response Plan (CERP) sub-committee members Lewis Adey, Stephen Brown, Peter Hunter and Veronica Hunter, with input and expertise from the RFS, SES and many members of the community.

In February 2022 we announced: The MVA welcomes the investment in this simple lo-tech, community run, potentially life-saving solution. This will go some way to address significant communication issues in our valley; no mobile coverage and power dependent landline and internet . These inadequacies were critically exposed during recent fire and flood emergencies.

In March 2022 we received the first funding from the government and have now appointed a Project Manager (Stephen Brown) and Technical Advisor (Brad Stapleton of ESSCOM).

There is a grant sub-committee comprising Stephen Brown, Peter Hunter, Len Dragsund and Lewis Adey.

Residents Radio Network
UHF radios have proven themselves as a useful communication tool during emergency events and telecommunications failures throughout the various valley areas.

The MVA Connected and Prepared Team aims to promote their use and improve the UHF infrastructure for future emergency and communications blackouts.

We’ve seen how useful they have been already:
• Adopting UHF Channel 9, used in welfare checks from RFS crews to local householders, during the 2019-20 bushfires
• Neighbour-to-Neighbour networks in parts of the valley for catch-ups and chats
• Relaying of messages when phone lines have been out in parts of the valley
• Safety at home when out and about on your property
• Promoting UHF Channel 9 potential for SES to connect locally in flood activities

So, why not voice your support and contact us or your local Warden if you can help the radio testing and mapping team in June 2022 with your local knowledge.

 

Residents Radio Network Rollout
During May and June 2022 the Technical Team are organising a radio check throughout the valley to inform what equipment is needed.
 
As of 1 June 2022, Upper Macdonald Wardens have now mapped out a very good ch 9 network for this sector. This is predominantly using Handhelds but we will also test hi-gain antennas for the Handhelds to boost the network.
 
The plan now is for a group to secure a clear comms line back to village or even to jump the river on the way. This is all tracking for an end June of completion throughout the valley.
 
The next step will be to start ordering and purchasing the right equipment with the help of our Technical Advisors. We are anticipating a possible delay in acquiring  this stock due to a supply chain backlog, but we are still hoping to role out the UHF Residents Radio Network, hopefully in time for the next fire season.
 
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