Radio Hawke’s Bay launches emergency broadcast app

A new Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) has been developed for Hawke’s Bay to provide residents with reliable, detailed, and timely information during disasters. The system leverages existing AM/FM radio infrastructure and adds a unique digital platform for information gathering and sharing.

Bridging the information gap

Cyclone Gabrielle highlighted the challenges of accessing information during emergencies. The EBS addresses this by:

Utilising AM/FM radio: Accessible even without power or internet, ensuring everyone can receive critical updates.

Offering a digital platform: Android, and iOS apps enable easy information sharing through speech-to-text technology.

Connecting with local sources: Aggregating news and updates from emergency services, councils, and utilities.

Facilitating community involvement: Allowing residents to submit information and updates directly as part of our new “Community Reporter” initiative.

Benefits for Everyone

The EBS will empower residents and emergency responders alike:

Residents: Get accurate, localised information on road closures, evacuations, essential supplies, and more.

Emergency services: Communicate effectively with the public, reducing interview redundancy and focusing on response efforts.

Media outlets: Access readily available, verified information for their reporting.

● They can be found searching for “Radio Hawke’s Bay” in the app stores. The foundation AM/FM frequencies will be 1431AM and 104.7FM from Radio Hawke’s Bay.

All Hawke’s Bay broadcasters are invited to be part of this system. Kinga VoxPop Ltd (VoxPop), a Hawke’s Bay company, has created this prototype digital platform for the Hawke’s Bay EBS, which allows anyone to easily record and send messages. These are then transcribed to text and can be republished into the apps and broadcast on the radio.

This is not a replacement for 111 Emergency calls or a public emergency alerting system, but rather this is another tool that adds a timely public information about the emergency that is not social media.

This is phase 1 which has received 2K funding from HDC and 2K from NCC and pending funding from ECCT subject to receiving further funds or sponsorship, more is needed.

“The communications blackout as a result of the cyclone highlighted that we need more options to spread the risk during catastrophic natural events. Council is pleased to have helped seed-fund Radio Hawke’s Bay, through my Mayoral Relief Fund, to start developing the App Emergency Broadcast System. We have high hopes for its continued development,” said Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst.

For phase 2, Radio Hawke’s Bay is seeking significant funding in partnership with Sustainable HB to further the project for linked infrastructure with Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Coordination Centre in Hastings and the Emergency Operations Centres of each council.

This will also involve the development and training for key voluntary staff and community hubs and is being supported by the Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group.

“This is about working with local Hawke’s Bay radio and media networks, joining up digital media and traditional radio broadcasting to help ensure everyone can receive critical updates,” said HBCDEM Group Controller, Ian Macdonald.

Radio Hawke’s Bay Spokesperson, Natalie Robb, said the Radio Hawke’s Bay app featuring the Emergency Broadcast System represents a significant step forward in ensuring Hawke’s Bay residents have access to vital localised information during emergencies.

“By combining the strengths of traditional radio with innovative digital tools, the system empowers communities to prepare, respond, and recover more effectively,” she said.

“Shifting the focus from international social media to a localised responsive platform will limit the opportunity for disinformation and time delay. Daily the app will share general information about happenings in the community whether that is sheep across the road in Crownthorpe or a power outage in Waipukurau. If everyone could get use to using it now in an emergency, it will be second nature.”

About Radio Hawke’s Bay

Radio Hawkes Bay is the official access radio station in Hawkes Bay, funded by NZ on Air and part of the CAMA network. Community radio is made by the community, for the community about the community. The programs are free to air on 1431 AM and 104.7 FM. Also available on Spotify and Radio Hawke’s Bay App. Radio Hawke’s Bay provides a platform of representation for groups/ individuals that have little or no access to mainstream media.

About VoxPop

Hawke’s Bay based Kīnga VoxPop Limited “VoxPop” is a world leader in radio digital engagement using speech-text technology. Its clients include top NPR radio shows in the United States such as 1A, On Point and Science Friday. VoxPop was co-founded by journalist and entrepreneur Peter Fowler and former Google Site Reliability Manager Andrew McMillan.

For more information, please contact:

Natalie Robb Projects and Funding Coordinator/ CAMA Co-Chair