Remon, a 42-year-old amateur DJ with another community radio Gema Merapi (Echo of Merapi) in Wukirsari village, Yogyakarta, said radios can also be used to educate people to be better prepared during eruptions.
“There are people who wouldn’t evacuate and think: ‘There is no way my village would be affected (by an eruption)’.
“There are also those who would say: ‘People in a neighbouring village are not evacuating, so why should we?’ We had to educate them that different areas have different threats and risk levels,” Remon, who also goes with one name, told CNA.
Community radios in Merapi have been so vital in emergency response and disaster preparedness that government officials, academics and activists are looking to establish a similar network of radios in other disaster-prone areas.
FILLING INFORMATION GAP
Located just 4km from the crater of Merapi and overlooking a deep scar on its south eastern slopes where lava often flows, Sidorejo village in Klaten Regency, Central Java, is under a constant threat of danger.
The government has installed sirens at various parts of the village to warn residents of potential eruptions.
“But the sirens would set off when it was not supposed to because it short circuited and so on. Conversely, the sirens would stay quiet during an eruption because of some technical issues,” local resident Sukiman Mohtar Pratomo told CNA.
“It made us think: ‘There must be a way that we can communicate quickly and efficiently to many people all at once’. In 2002, we finally came up with an answer: ‘Why not radio?’”
The 52-year-old and several others then established Lintas Merapi FM. Lintas is the Indonesian word for cross.
People in Sidorejo were initially indifferent about the community radio but the 24-hour Lintas Merapi FM proved its worth when Merapi erupted four years later.
“We also evacuated and we broadcasted from an evacuation shelter. We provided evacuees with information on what is happening at the mountaintop. We were constantly relaying information from the BPPTKG,” Pratomo said, referring to the geological disaster agency.
“The radio can be heard 15km away, so people at numerous evacuation centres could listen to our broadcast. We would pass on information about volunteering opportunities, aid shortages and so on as well as provide entertainment for the evacuees and a way for them to express themselves.”
Seventy per cent of homes there still have radios, either plug-in or battery-powered, and people also tune in with the radio function on their mobile phones, Pratomo added.