By Kath Gannaway
It’s no joke when you have to move from one part of your house to another to get mobile reception, but for East Warburton residents like Pat Ingram, mobile connection is even more elusive.
Ms Ingram has no mobile reception and regularly drives to the East Warburton public hall car park to make phone calls.
She said she is not looking forward to another fire season without the benefits of mobile phone communication, including emergency apps and text messages.
“Two years ago we had a temporary facility placed at East Warburton, but that was effectively the last time we had anywhere near the same level of service that others further down the highway have during the fire season,” Ms Ingram said.
“This estate is just about all changed over to the NBN and if the power goes out you are without phones of any kind.”
Ultimately, the Upper Yarra area past Warburton will be well served with mobile connection, with mobile towers for East Warburton, Reefton and McMahons Creek in varying stages of planning and approval under the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot program.
Telstra area general manager Loretta Willaton said locations for East Warburton and Reefton had been identified and were in the planning and approval pipeline.
“The approvals process can take time and is subject to approvals from a range of people,” Ms Willaton said.
“At this stage we anticipate construction on these sites to commence in the first half of 2018.
“The McMahon’s Creek tower is still proceeding through site assessment with construction expected in 2018,” she said.
In relation to temporary cover Ms Willaton said Telstra continuously assesses locations and would not be deploying temporary coverage to the Yarra Valley this year.
The question being asked by Pat Ingram and others like her is why – when a temporary facility was deemed necessary, and deliverable in 2015 after a high-profile pre-Christmas visit by Premier Daniel Andrews and Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley – in the highest rated fire danger area in Victoria, is it no longer a priority.
Mr Lapsley didn’t answer the Mail’s question on the change of priority for a temporary facility, but said throughout Victoria there was a range of information channels that could be accessed for emergency information.
“It’s important community members are aware of the channels they have access to in their areas,” he said, adding that a new antenna on Mount Victoria would assist the Warburton Valley community to access emergency radio broadcasts through 96.1FM.
“Community members should be tuning in,” he said.
Warburton will get a siren for the upcoming season, but Mr Lapsley said no sirens were planned for Reefton or East Warburton.
“The provision of further community sirens depends on availability of funding from State, local governments and communities,” he said.
“Given the limitations, community members need to understand where they will get their information from as part of their own planning and awareness including 96.1, Sky TV, the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226, using www.emergency.vic.gov.au, downloading the Vic Emergency App or by following VicEmergency on Facebook and Twitter,” Mr Lapsley said.
He said the Emergency Alert System, which is landline and mobile based, is not used for all emergencies.