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Royal Melbourne Institute for Technology (RMIT)

Grant round: 2013

Grant amount: $47,971 

In November 2012 the Telstra Telephone Exchange at Warrnambool, south west Victoria, caught on fire and disrupted the telecommunications services of an entire region. Many residents in the area lost all telephone and internet services, even health monitoring systems EFTPOS and ATM services, and many were out of order for up to 20 days.

Through a series of surveys, focus groups and analyses of public reports including the Telstra and Department of Communications reports, the research team examined the social and financial impact of the telecommunications outage on the community. They then explored future measures to be taken to reduce the impact of similar outages.

The research findings indicated a severe impact as 95% of respondents suffered some inconvenience related to a business transaction, 87% were unable to communicate with friends or family and 70% were unable, or found it difficult, to make important purchases, such as food or fuel. Despite the inconvenience, some respondents commented on positive aspects of the outage, such as an increase in face to face time spent between family members.

Update: In June 2014 Telstra released its report into the incident which followed up on recommendations proposed in its initial report from March 2013. The report details Telstra's progress in implementing its recommendations arising from its investigation into the fire. A summary of the report and further information on the investigation can be found on the Telstra website. Furthermore, the Department of Communications is currently working on advice to assist businesses prepare for unexpected and lengthy telecommunications outages.

A subsequent paper with further analysis of these results has been published in the Australian Journal of Telecommunications and the Digital Economy.

Further information on emergency contact information can be found at www.triplezero.gov.au, on the ABC Emergency Site, and from your local fire authority.

Download: pdfWarrnambool Exchange Fire Consumer Impact Analysis1.75 MB

Download: docxWarrnambool Exchange Fire Consumer Impact Analysis1.67 MB

Download: docWarrnambool Exchange Fire Consumer Impact Analysis5.06 MB

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