Radio chatter risks lives and property

Murraylands' radio chatter risks lives, property

Operators of Ultra High Frequency (UHF) CB radios around the Murraylands have been unknowingly placing lives and property at risk by misusing emergency channels.

Although no individual licence is needed to own or use these radios, they fall under federal legislation that stipulates, among other things, certain channels that must only be used for the specified purpose.

Among these are channels 5 and 35 which are designated for emergency use only.

Radio Rescue Emergency Communications Incorporated (RREC) National Commissioner Martin Howells said often people had not read the manual that comes with the radios and often ignore pleas from volunteer monitors to keep the channels clear for their intended use.

RREC, a volunteer organisation whose primary role is providing monitoring services on the emergency channels, have recently tried to clear farm and business users from both channels 5 and 35, often with requests falling on deaf ears.

"We've even had one operator from the Woods Point area lock their transmitter on channel 35 for several days, causing interference along a significant section of the highway through Tailem Bend" Mr Howells said.

"Had the planned emergency repeater in Tailem been operational these transmissions would have rendered it useless" he said.

"These channels can be used for calls for assistance, signals of distress, or a message relating to these," Mr Howells said.

"This means even groups regarding themselves as emergency services can't use the channels for routine chat, so communications for a farm or business certainly breaches the law."

While mobile phones are prevalent these days these can fail, especially during fires, storms or floods where power and telephone services are often cut.

UHF CB is common among trucks, farms, tourists and numerous enthusiasts, and is a cheap form of communications open to the public.

This makes the CB emergency channels a valuable resource that has helped save countless lives, and property, over the years.

Given recent events with severe fires and floods there is little doubt they may again help save lives, but only if they are available for their legislated use when needed.

Murraylands is not alone in this problem and, according to RREC, the situation in the Adelaide area is worse, with both channels 5 and 35 used regularly by a number of operators.

While penalties for the misuse of the emergency channels can be up to 2 years imprisonment or $333,000 fine, RREC believes the solution is education rather than enforcement.

Further information regarding the emergency channels and applicable laws, along with contact information for ACMA can be found at www.radiorescue.org.au/emergency or phone 0499 512 133.