‘It was scary and the adrenaline was pumping’

With cyclonic-like conditions brewing in parts of Queensland and storms returning to the rest of Australia’s east-coast, radioinfo caught up with Star 104.5’s Gaby Fitzgerald, who recently had her first taste of broadcasting during a natural disaster when deadly storms hit New South Wales.

 It was scary and the adrenaline was pumping.

The storm hit us pretty quickly; it was 2am Tuesday morning when we lost power. My first instinct was to get on Facebook and ask our listeners if they had power. I didn’t think we would get much of a response considering the time; but it turns out most Coasties were awake!

Our breakfast team, Craig and Mandy with their producer Alice came in an hour earlier that morning with residents waking to a lot of damage including traffic lights out, trees and power lines over the roads and no phone service. Throughout the whole day and into the late hours of the night we were covering the storm on air and online.
While it was my first time broadcasting during a natural disaster I wasn’t surprised by how much the community relied on our broadcast in a time of emergency. I was more thinking, ‘Hmm how’s Spotify doing for you right now hey – is it giving you the weather updates you need?’
We were dealing with listeners driving in the dark (no street lights), not knowing if there was a power line or tree on the road ahead of them. And the phones didn’t stop ringing. We wouldn’t have been able to help as much as we did without our listeners calling through telling us where they were and what was wrong. It felt like it was our responsibility to get their voice out.
I had listeners calling for all different reasons. One man was genuinely so upset; worried his “hand sized” gold fish was going to die because the power was out and the filter wasn’t operating. He was literally sitting at the tank, filtering the water with a cup.
Throughout my short years of being in this industry, I’ve been told how important radio was “back in the day” and I almost envied people who got to experience a career during a time when radio appeared so much more valued.  But after broadcasting during the storms I’ve realized it is just as relevant and as powerful as it has always been.

At just 21 Gaby has worked at four stations casually (Nova 96.9, 101.3 Sea FM, NXFM and Hot FM TSV) and in full time roles with 100.9 Sea FM Hobart and currently Star 104.5. At the beginning of her radio career, Gaby reported for us at the 2013 ACRAs.

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