Emergency Broadcasting in Australia

There’s a fascinating thread over at TV Forum about emergency broadcasts: http://tvforum.uk/tvhome/emergency-broadcasts-41852/

I was however wondering if Australia has a similar system in place? I seem to recall the news reporting that transmitters in the Lockyer Valley had switched to Emergency Broadcasts during that afternoon in 2011, but I can’t find any videos or anything. I imagine they’d be used during cyclones or bushfires as well?

SEWS -https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_Emergency_Warning_Signal

We get emergency broadcasts for cyclones in North QLD when they are closing in.
They’re usually on TV and Radio nearly every 10 minutes.
This is an old one I recorded years ago as Cyclone Yasi was approaching.

Here’s an example of one from Channel 7:


ABC Radio usually do localised rolling coverage as do some commercial stations and community stations.

Abc local radio have always been on top of things when we’ve had emergencies in Tas. The fires this year as well as the floods a few weeks ago. If a bushfire is at emergency warning there is usually an update every 10-15 minutes. TV is often the last to get things to air, especially in regional areas I’ve noticed.

I remember someone at the old forum mocked up a nuclear attack warning. Might have been 5 years of go back now but could still be on YouTube. Was rather alarming (as it should be).

1 Like

Don’t recall ever seeing anything on TV in Tas but ABC Local Radio is always well and truly on top of it with national programming often missed to remain on air locally or presenters called in at very short notice and then working several hours or into the early hours of the morning. Typically it’s fire coverage but we’ve had the flood coverage in January/February and June this year.
There are different levels for how often they will break into programming/read the updated advices. I believe a Watch and Act is every half an hour and any higher level is immediate and every 15 minutes after, they’ll often do additional interviews too with Police/Fire/SES etc…


At best I saw a ticker pop up at random times on both Southern Cross and TDT when emergency warnings were issued for some fires in January. From memory it was in quite a remote area that probably would have struggled to get terrestrial TV broadcasts anyway.

The Lockyer Valley doesn’t really have many transmitters of its own, it gets just about all of its radio and TV from either Brisbane or Toowoomba. I presume these would have alerted locals of the imminent danger

Back in Victoria during bushfire events you used to get the SEWS signal (which sends a shiver up my spine everytime I hear it still) and the announcement of affected locations and those in immediate danger. It’s scary radio even if you’re not caught up in it.

From memory, after Black Saturday most if not all commercial radio and TV broadcasters signed up to be official emergency broadcasters, meaning they would interrupt programs to broadcast emergency warnings when required. Certain failings were exposed when the Churchill fire burnt through the main Gippsland transmitter site on Mt Tassie (include the ABC local radio transmitter), which meant a lot of emergency warnings weren’t getting out as they should have. I recall the local community broadcaster there (which transmitted from a different site that was safe from fire) ditching their programming and taking the ABC local radio feed just to help get the warnings out there once 100.7 went off air

1 Like

What happened with the Lockyer Valley was that the ABC Radio National transmitter on 105.7 on the Downs switched to broadcasting local ABC AM radio 747.

ABC FM in Brisbane switched (or was prepared to switch) to local radio 612 in case that AM transmitter site was flooded.

During summer I heard the SEWS several times on a variety of commercial radio stations in Perth when there were bushfire warnings in effect from FESA in the metro area. Seems to be more widespread then in the past.

ABC has been doing a good job covering emergencies such as bushfires but sometimes I feel they interrupt normal programming at the wrong places. For example, last summer the Grandstand program on 774 Melbourne was interrupted around 5-6 times on a day regarding a small bushfire somewhere in Victoria. I didn’t mind the emergency broadcast if the bushfire occurred somewhere close to Melbourne but on this occasion it was in the west of the state, few hundred kms from Melbourne. It would have been better to limit the interruption to around that particular region so locals can be informed of the latest information, instead of broadcasting it to the whole state.

FYI Emergency Management Victoria has a list of officially accredited emergency broadcasters across the State: https://www.emv.vic.gov.au/our-work/victorias-warning-system/emergency-broadcasters/

The list consists of radio stations but also includes Sky News. I’m surprised no ABC or commercial television broadcasters are included. I thought at the least ABC television might have sought to be accredited.

I heard the ABC use it a month or so ago here for the storms, they seem quite happy to use it.

I’m honestly surprised that a Pay TV service that’s not widely available like Sky News can be classed as an official emergency broadcaster.


Probably a remnant from before ABC News 24 existed.

Here are some examples from NBN during the storms in April 2015.


Plenty of Bushfire warnings in QLD tonight with this notice attached:

Family in the affected area have told me that they’re hearing the SEWS frequently on radio.


On the radio front, rolling coverage continues on ABC Capricornia, ABC Wide Bay and ABC Tropical North - currently produced out of 90.3 ABC Sunshine Coast.

Local shifts are also being presented on 4CC 1548/927, hit 107.9/93.5 and Triple M 101.5/95.1. 4RO is airing updates every 30 minutes.

1 Like
Get Connected: Like us on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter