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This report outlines the lessons learnt from the Telstra Warrnambool exchange fire on 22 November 2012, and suggests a number of  responses. 

The Warrnambool exchange fire highlighted the critical role telecommunications plays in the day-to-day lives of Australians and the significant economic and social implications when access to them is disrupted. The outage affected more than 100,000 people with connections lost to 61,856 landlines, 16,149 ADSL services and 65 mobile base stations.

The report makes a number of suggested actions, including that:

  • The government work with industry to develop best practice guidelines for owners of critical telecommunications infrastructure that includes the provision of early and accurate information, and publishing public notices outside affected areas.
  • My Department continue to work with Telstra as it implements the recommendations of its inquiry into the causes of the fire, which includes improving its fire detection and response systems.
  • Community service providers and businesses ensure that their business continuity plans take into account the total loss of telecommunications services.
  • Vulnerable people who are concerned about accessing Triple Zero during fixed-line telephone outages consider keeping a charged mobile phone, as mobile phones can make emergency calls without SIM cards or active mobile accounts.

These actions will support authorities and communities to be better prepared for, and able to better respond to, similar events if they were to occur in the future. The Warrnambool Inquiry received 28 submissions and included public and business forums, as well as consultation with community services providers. The report also takes into account the findings from Telstra's own report into the incident.

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