Council Project Improving Community Resilience
Many communities lost access to power and communications during the 2019-20 bushfires, leaving them unable to connect with emergency services and stay informed to make safety decisions.
From this experience, the Shoalhaven City Council identified an opportunity to provide trusted and authoritative information from the Shoalhaven Integrated Emergency Management Centre (IEMC) to isolated communities to improve public safety during future emergencies.
The experience has highlighted shortcomings that needed to be addressed. There needs to be better communication with communities during a crisis, especially a community where the population can increase significantly during the tourism seasons.
With support from the Local Economic Recovery grants, funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments, Council is delivering critical infrastructure so that in future disasters, if power and communications are lost, community members can access important emergency information via their Local Information Hub.
The hubs will provide communications and energy technology at 19 Council-owned halls and community centres across the Shoalhaven, displaying accurate and up to date emergency information. Additionally, four Holiday Haven holiday parks will have information dashboards installed.
The dashboards are linked to the IEMC via satellite internet connection and powered via backup power from solar panels and batteries. This will ensure the Hubs are not reliant on mobile phone towers or the power grid.
In the Shoalhaven, the biggest cause of power disruption isn’t fire, it’s not flood, it’s wind taking out power lines. Whatever we could do to provide access to timely information had to be around a system that did not rely on mobile phone technology and did not rely around the grid.
This project is unique in that it provides uninterruptable power, but also uninterruptable communications, and they go hand in hand. It’s really revolutionary in being adaptable to this environment that we live in.
Using the talent, services and infrastructure from within the region, the project makes use of commercially available technology, fitted and installed by local providers.
Callala Bay Community Hall has been the pilot site for the communications and power upgrade, with installation of a Voice over IP satellite phone connection, live screen with satellite connection, communications rack, satellite modem, solar panels, battery pack and new power board.
It has been a true collaboration with the local Callala Bay community, thanks to direct representative involvement, providing advice and preferences on installation and operation.
Callala Community Centre President James Morris has enjoyed setting his community up for success, highlighting that it was an exercise of cooperation between the Council, local business and providers, all contributing ideas , to work together to come up with an outcome.
In preparing the Callala community for future disasters, in future, decisions will now be made on knowledge, rather than on guess work.
The local information hubs are part of a broader Recovery into Resilience Project (RRP) that will provide a coordinated approach to improving the resilience of the Shoalhaven Community, via three programs which involve short and long-term approaches, as detailed below.
Although we can’t stop the future happening, we can certainly be more prepared to meet it.