Continued power outages and a depleted battery for Byron Shire Council’s emergency after-hours phone service have been blamed for the lack of help during Cyclone Debbie.
The Echo understands that three neighbouring councils, Ballina, Lismore and Tweed, remained open on Friday March 31 and their emergency phone systems diverted after hours to humans, who then ensured all calls got to relevant staff.
Byron council’s acting general manager Mark Arnold told The Echo that their main phone number switches to messagebank with an after-hours message that requests callers to phone the after-hours emergency number.
‘This service is manned by a call service and the calls are prioritised and relayed to the relevant staff,’ he said. ‘With the continued power outages in Mullumbimby on Thursday afternoon and Friday, the backup phone battery was depleted and the main number would have gone unanswered with no after-hours emergency message from about 2am on Friday.’
‘The Byron Bay depot phones were operating on Thursday and Friday. On Friday afternoon, we managed to get our telephone provider to divert Council’s main number to the depot, which was being manned.
‘Over the weekend, the phone message asked callers to phone the after-hours emergency number.’
Mr Arnold assured residents that staff continued to prioritise works with road clearing and draining.
‘Council is also about to change the phone system that has been identified as being outdated.
‘The new phone system will allow us greater control over how the phones are managed and enable easier diversion in the times of emergency,’ he said.