The theme of World Radio Day 2016 is ‘The role of the radio in humanitarian emergency and disaster situations’.
Radio’s low cost and high accessibility make it an essential means of communication in emergency situations. Australian radio’s reporting of bushfires is a sadly necessary example of the power of radio to disseminate up-to-the-minute information and provide a means of communication for people in danger.
In March 2009 Melbourne radio station 3AW donated to the NFSA a compilation of around 200 recordings concerning the 2009 Victorian bushfires. The coverage includes 7 February, also known as ‘Black Saturday’, and its aftermath, when 173 people died. As bushfires raged in Victoria on that terrible weekend, 3AW suspended normal programming as presenters and other station staff continued to provide information and to take calls from those in affected areas.
In this excerpt from 7 February 2009, Channel 7 reporter Norm Beaman tells radio presenter Neil Mitchell the dramatic story of his wife Annie’s survival during the Kilmore East bushfire. Beaman, talking with Mitchell on his way home and still coming to terms with what has happened, says that for 15 long minutes he lost contact with Annie as the bushfire ravaged their Mount Disappointment property. The emotion is obvious in his voice as he says quietly ‘I thought she was gone. But she’s here.’ Annie survived the fire by jumping into the dam with a blanket over her head.