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January 17, 2012

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has reminded Gippslanders and visitors to the region not to depend on text messages as their only means of receiving bushfire information this summer.

Mr Chester has repeatedly warned the Federal Government that there were many popular holiday destinations in bushfire prone parts of the region which don’t have adequate mobile phone coverage.

He said keeping an eye on the weather forecast and Country Fire Authority updates as well as tuning into official emergency warning broadcasters ABC Gippsland, Gold1242 and TRFM were all important ways to receive updated information.

“The text messaging system is an important emergency warning tool but people shouldn’t depend on it solely as a method of receiving information,” Mr Chester said.

“It’s great that so many Gippslanders travel throughout the region with their families visiting local attractions during summer but they need to remain alert, particularly on days of high fire risk.

“Our visitors to the region also need to understand what they can do and how to best access information to stay informed about local fire conditions.

“We still have a long fire season ahead of us and preparation and ongoing vigilance is required.”

Mr Chester has been campaigning for the Federal Government to introduce a plan to fix mobile phone blackspots in regional areas, particularly those popular with tourists.

“Understandably, the topography of the Gippsland landscape makes it difficult to deliver mobile phone coverage in every location but as I travel throughout the region there are a number of highly popular tourist locations which still suffer from inadequate coverage,” Mr Chester said.

“At this stage, the Gillard Government is refusing to introduce a mobile phone blackspots program to help overcome some of the problem areas.

“It is positive that the Victorian and Federal Governments have worked together to implement an improved emergency alert system but unless the coverage is widened, the system will not deliver benefits to the entire community.

“Federal Government funding is needed to drive improvements in the mobile phone network for the benefit of regional communities in the future.”

Mr Chester said the Coalition took a policy to the last Federal election to work with the telecommunications industry and communities to target areas that have inadequate mobile phone coverage through a $30 million mobile phone black-spots program.

To register a mobile phone blackspot contact Mr Chester’s Sale office on 1300 131 785 or email

ABC Gippsland can be heard at 828 on the AM band and 100.7 on the FM band.

Gold1242 can be heard at 1242 on the AM band.

TRFM can be heard at 99.5 on the FM band in the Latrobe Valley and Wellington Shire, and on 99.99 in East Gippsland.

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