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Phuket Offered FM Frequency for Future Disaster Alerts

Thursday, April 26, 2012
PHUKET: A special FM broadcast band frequency can be set aside for Phuket in the event of future tsunami or earthquake disaster alerts, a broadcasting expert said today.

Lack of any essential information when needed has been the biggest criticism in the aftermath of Phuket's tsunami scare from earthquakes of magnitude 8.6 and 8.2 on April 11 and the 4.3 Phuket earthquake that followed five days later.

Both events triggered panic and evacuations of Phuket's holiday west coast beach resorts. In the first case, evacuations also came all along the Andaman coast.

Phuket's mobile telephone networks folded in the aftermath of the April 11 tsunami scare. The second evacuation five days later could have been avoided if officials had been able to tell holidaymakers and residents quickly that it was a Phuket-based shake, not another offshore earthquake capable of generating a tsunami.

With information lacking, people fled for the second time in five days, with motorcycles and other vehicles clogging roads from Phuket's west coast.

Supina Klangnarong of the Office of National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission said today that she will offer the FM radio 89.0 spot to Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha for emergency use on Phuket.

Khun Supina said she was scheduled to meet with the Governor tomorrow. Phuket would become the first place in Thailand to have a designated radio band set aside for emergency use, she said.

A similar bandwith would be allocated for Bangkok, she said.

Such a band could be picked up by listeners on mobile telephones. People could be notified quickly about potential dangers and just as importantly, notified when alerts come to an end.

The two events, coming so close together more than seven years after the December 26, 2004 tsunami in which 5400 residents and tourists were killed in Thailand, have galvanised officials into action to fix obvious flaws in the existing disaster plan.

A seminar organised by the Phuket Real Estate Association yesterday heard that some old buildings on Phuket could be affected by earthquakes stronger than the 4.3 shake but that modern buildings on Phuket were mostly built to withstand much stronger earthquakes.

Comments

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That's what you call 'a shake-up'.

Posted by James on April 26, 2012 18:56

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Kind offer, but surely you need a regular listenership for the radio frequency to be effective? (this is offered for emergencies only, this is unlikely to have a listenership). Or am I missing something...?

Posted by Duncan on April 26, 2012 20:31

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This shouldn't be about a single radio frequency ALL FM radio stations have a duty of care and need factual up to date information in order to act and transmit that information, at 91.5 FM we transmitted within minutes the news, as soon as the warning alarms went off we took it upon ourselves via a live and recorded message every 3 minutes to notify our listeners base through until 7pm. A lot of people called into our studio to use our dedicated internet access to notify family and friend they were safe, we did a LIVE link out to BBC in London and through the following days received dozens of messages thanking us. At 91.5 FM we see this as one of our social responsabilities to the Phuket Community. To make this work it would be easy to transmit vital information to the broadcast distribution points via a number of efficient and most important reliable links. Stay tuned.

Posted by Byron on April 26, 2012 21:56

Editor Comment:

Sure. Great work . . . You'll need a reliable source for your updating information, too. Let's hope this is it.

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What happened to the "everyone will get an SMS" to their phones idea?

Posted by Tbs on April 27, 2012 07:30

Editor Comment:

The SMS system to alert local officials has been deemed a failure because people change telephone numbers and don't update. The SMS system doesn't work for tourists. But many people do have smartphones capable of tuning to FM radio. And radio is the fastest and most easily accessed medium in any crisis - provided it broadcasts information quickly from reliable sources.

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Let's hope radio is part of the strategy, and not the panacea. A wild guess, but I would assume at least half of Phuket's tourist population during the day are on/ near the beach, on an island, or shopping. Meaning, they are away from a radio station (few walk around listening through a smartphone to a local radio station). Looks like radio have a plan... what's the plan for web, tv, on-the-streets? I like PWs previous idea of motorbikes driving around broadcasting during an emergency. That's likely to get to more ears than most "traditional" media combined!

Posted by Duncan on April 27, 2012 09:50

Editor Comment:

Yes. ''Hot'' motorcycles with the capacity to broadcast to the public and also converse with base could make a huge difference, especially if there isn't two hours' warning before the next tsunami. After the first phase - getting people out - it then becomes a matter of keeping people informed. Is there still a danger? Who is going to bring food and water? Are our friends in the next resort safe? It's then that news radio becomes important.


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