Telecoms Tower at Kurrajong Heights

Maintaing the integrity of our telecommunications infrastructure during bushfires is critical. It is therefore encouraging to see the telecommunications industry working together to document their experiences during this summers fires and present their findings to the Royal Commission.

CRAIG is a group within AMTA, the Australian Mobile Telecommications Association. It stands for Communications Resilience Admin Industry Group and its members include AARnet, AMTA, Aussie Broadband, Cisco, Enex Testlab, NBN Co, NEXTDC, NSW Telco Authority, Optus, Telstra, VHA and Vocus.

IT News wrote a piece which included this:

The telcos express a “deep and sincere appreciation to professional and volunteer firefighters and to members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) who have helped protect telecommunications infrastructure and personnel from the fires in many Australian States during late 2019 and early 2020.”

“The brave and determined interventions of firefighters and the ADF – often in very hazardous and changeable conditions – saved a large volume of vital telecommunications network infrastructure from damage or complete destruction and allowed services to be restored more quickly than otherwise would have been possible,” the telcos said.

“Firefighters also played indispensable roles, in many cases, to help maintain back-up power to network sites that were cut off from mains electricity supply.”

Individual telcos had agreements in place to allow Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Rural Fire Service (RFS) personnel to “refuel generators that were providing back-up power to mobile base stations.” “This was particularly valuable in circumstances where site access was restricted, or it was difficult for service providers to undertake this task themselves,” the telcos said.

However, the telcos noted that in some cases firefighters reported that they had been directed not to offer this assistance. 

“For future events it would be very helpful to have a consistent inter-agency position on this issue and consideration of using ADF resources to assist with refuelling generators,” the telcos said.

The members of the CRAIG also saw opportunities to improve communication and coordination during a future catastrophic event.

In particular, the telcos wanted better visibility into predicted fire movements.

The full submission may be viewed here:

AMTA Submission to the Royal Commission
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