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Promised ‘Whispir’ is in reality - silence!.

By David Yeomans.

As part of the Thames Coromandel District Council (TCDC) & Civil Defence Management Unit strategy, the Coromandel Peninsula was compensated for having the remote access to Fire Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) sirens switched off; with the installation of evacuation signs on toilet blocks and “Whispir”.

The Thames Coromandel Civil Defence Controller, Gary Towler, confirmed that in December 2021, the “Whispir” platform would be operational in December 2021. (Mercury Bay Informer – Issue 966 September, 2021).

Whispirs’ technological claim, that it could quickly send alerts out via multiple social media channels, websites, and text messaging and automated voice calls, would be available to those with little or no cellular reception. Whispir is hosted by the Waikato National Emergency Management Group for the use of all local councils in the region.

So, what happened? For the community nothing seems to have happened. Questions very obvious are:

Why didn’t Whispir come on line in December of 2021 as stated by Mr Towler.

(1) When did it became apparent the December date could not be met and why wasn’t the peninsula population informed of the delay?

(2) Why didn’t the TCDC Civil Defence Emergency Management Team advise the peninsula population that Whispir would not be available and that its non -availability was due to an App glitch?

Further enquiries were made to establish if the other 21 councils in the district had operational access to Whisper and the response was that the App glitch had prevented deployment of Whispir throughout the Waikato District.

That there is no emergency communication system on the Coromandel Peninsula that works is very concerning. There are none of the promised “Response Units” for each of the vacated siren township sites. The success, with the much-touted new technologies is zero.

During the recent tempests the power failed, and the telephones went off line. How did the Thames Emergency Management Unit (TEMU)contact the towns on the peninsula?

These questions to Mr Towler would be pertinent.

Q. Did the peninsula response units answer the telephone calls you made using a satellite phone? How many towns and town response groups were called on your satellite phone? Do you own or have access to a satellite phone within the precinct of the Thames Coromandel Emergency Management Unit?

From Pauanui during Gabrielle: For the time spent in the “makeshift” emergency reception centre, in Pauanui, the lack of outside communication was telling on the people present. Someone walked in with a transistor radio and the only station broadcasting locally was Coromandel CFM. e mood in the shelter instantly lightened - that radio gave comfort and reassurance that “someone -out-there” was keeping the population up to date with what was happening in our weather battered peninsula. News on the weather, the state of the roads and a whole host of news that just brought a smile to your face brightened the mood of folks considerably.

Why isn’t Coromandel CFM identified, within the Peninsula, as the 24-hour Emergency Broadcasting Station? They were a ready source of information, and help all through that time.

Why doesn’t TCDC affirm this and use what is already working.

Let us not forget “All Hazards Sirens”. Just put aside, for one moment, that sirens can provide an alert for Tsunami warnings; they also can be used to broadcast local instructions or even identify that the Civil Defence Reception Centre has been activated. New technology sirens don’t require external power connections as they are battery powered and can be recharged with solar power. They can even be used for flooding evacuation or assembly of emergency personnel. Whispir promised everything but it isn’t operating – so we have not had protection strategy since Dec 2021.

In a power outage, Fire Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) sirens don’t work as they require three phase power to operate.

An Electoral promise that a group of interested parties would be assembled to discuss reinstatement of “All Hazards” sirens to peninsula has not yet occurred.

I hear and agree with Mayor Len when he repeats, ‘we need to work together.” Well, surely that means getting on with the things we have been promised.

The Mayoral appointments of a Chair to the Civil Defence Emergency Management Group Committee are found in the Unconfirmed Minutes of 13 December 2022. So why haven’t we seen an appointment to the Emergency Management Committee? Observation of the TCDC website does not identify the committee entities? With all that has happened to the peninsula, such a committee would have been identified by now, surely?

The peninsula people have been tested by Mother Nature and in the vernacular of the TV programme “are you being served”, “You’ve all done very well!” .

BUT can that be said of our Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups?

Remember the push by NEMA /TCDC Emergency Management Unit for total reliance of the Emergency Mobile Alert (EMA)? Remember the unequivocal assertion that the EMA would save the day and we would be much safer for it? We would be informed!

In terms of Emergency Management, the situation does not bode well for any confidence in the communications system(s).

“Over & Out”

Yet, this doesn’t seem to work!

Please press the bell for Service – shit, sorry the powers off!

Caption: Siren.


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