The Westerner

Council to pipe emergency information to residents

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Source: Lee Oliver

Parts of the Woodford region were isolated by the floods, with some locals stranded for several days. Photo by Stacy Kellie.

Parts of the Woodford region were isolated by the floods, with some locals stranded for several days. Photo by Stacy Kellie.

Moreton Bay Regional Council will use social media to inform residents during emergency events, in the hope of avoiding a repeat of the confusion experienced during this month’s floods.

Last Tuesday councillors unanimously passed a motion allowing Council to use websites such as Facebook and Twitter to pass on emergency information to locals – one week after floodwaters battered the region.

The move comes in the face of widespread criticism from residents of some of the worst affected areas in Councillor Adrian Raedel's division, including the Caboolture and Woodford districts, of a lack of information from Council.

Cr Raedel (Division 12) used Facebook to distribute information to his constituents during the flood emergency.

He said the flow of information from Council to residents during the flooding, and even to its councillors, was virtually non-existent.

“There was a lack of information flowing from those people (at Council), and certainly I got a lot of Facebook messages and Facebook postings, along with text messages from concerned residents,” Cr Raedel said.

“It was easier to go to other agencies to find out what was happening, through my contacts there, then what it was trying to get it through (Council’s) local disaster management committee.

“Even if they couldn’t get information out to the public, they still didn’t give it to the councillors or the state or federal members.

“I had a bit to say about that and, as a result, one of the things we’re going to instigate is using Facebook and Twitter during emergency events as a means of communication to the outside world.”

Cr Raedel said Council's decision to use social network websites “came on the back of sheer frustration of a lack of information getting to residents”.

Cathy Staib said her parents left flood-ravaged Centenary Lakes to reach their daughter at D’Aguilar, but were forced to turn back due to flooding at Bracalba.

“Had there been any form of decent communication they would have known this and I’m sure they wouldn’t have wasted their time driving that far out,” Ms Staib said.

“Following this they tried to find out the evacuation centres, only to be hit with a brick wall of no information.

“I also had a friend in Bellmere that is 39 weeks pregnant and she had no idea she was isolated until she found out via Facebook.

“In fact I would say if it weren’t for sites such as Facebook there would have been a lot more terrible situations than there were.”

D’Aguilar resident Nicky McDonough, whose son was stranded west of Woodford, said she was “very disappointed” with Council’s flood response.

“My son was stranded with friends at Mary Smokes, which was quite distressing,” she said.  “They lost power for a couple of days, which also meant no water or toilet.”

“I passed on a number for Council to organise food drops, and were told they wouldn’t receive anything until more residents requested help. I was gobsmacked.

“When food did make it to the area they were not notified. If it were not for resourceful neighbours, things would have been worse.”

Annette Ross from Elimbah said the people co-ordinating Council’s emergency response “should get their backsides well and truly kicked”.

“Council need to now take a long and hard look at their evacuation procedures and disaster response procedures to ensure that in the event that this happens again that all of their shire is well and truly informed,” she said.

Peter Athey from Caboolture, whose elderly mother was stranded by floodwaters, said he was “gobsmacked” by Council’s handling of the ordeal, including a lack of information on its website.

He said post-dated flood information, not available online during the emergency, had since been added to Council’s website.

“I think it is quite evil of MBRC to now pretend that they had done the right thing,” Mr Athey said. 

“Someone needs to be held accountable for this. It is a clear lie to the ratepayers.

“(Mayor) Al (Sutherland) needs to fess up, face the music and fix things or go into hiding permanently so we can get a real leader.”

Responding to criticism of Moreton Bay Council, Cr Raedel said: “I don’t think there’s any explanation they can give”.

“They’re going to have to wear it on the chin, know that they did a terrible job and it’s going to have to be better for next time,” he said.

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