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Supporting coastal town Tathra in its time of need

In times of emergency, the way communities band together to protect the place they call home and their people is deeply inspiring. We recently witnessed this unwavering dedication when bushfires ravaged the New South Wales coastal town of Tathra.

It was 10am on a Monday and I was in Bathurst when the call came through from our Network Emergency Manager based at our Network Operations Centre (NOC).

The NOC is the epicentre of our network, where dedicated teams monitor our infrastructure around-the-clock to help make sure it remains up and running for the four million end users accessing services over the nbn™ access network.

During Australia’s peak extreme weather season, receiving a call from our Network Emergency Management team can only mean one thing: it’s time to assist.

Sadly, I was informed that bushfires had raged through Tathra, a small coastal community on the South Coast of New South Wales. Reports indicated more than 70 homes had been completely destroyed. Hundreds of evacuees from the area were being housed at the Bega Showgrounds where emergency support services quickly rallied around the community.

While services over our network had not been impacted in this tragic event, the offer was put out to emergency services to provide assistance in any meaningful way we could.

Things move quickly.

Within hours of taking the call, I was meeting with our contact in the NSW Rural Fire Services at their emergency control centre to understand where there were risks to mobile communications or gaps in connectivity. That’s where our Road Muster Trucks that remotely connect to the Sky Muster™ satellite service would be needed most.

We deployed two of our trucks to help support rural fire services communications, and community connectivity in an area where homes and infrastructure had been severely damaged.

Being in that environment, I was acutely aware that it was a time to help – or get out of the way of those who were.

The next day, we were set up in a ‘safe zone’ in Tathra where vital data from impact assessments made by emergency services personnel could be relayed back to the control centre in nearby Bega via Sky Muster™ services provided by our Road Muster Trucks.

Over at the evacuation centre, our Road Muster Trucks offered free data and connectivity to those who had lost everything, or narrowly escaped that fate, and were keeping their loved ones updated. It was the least we could do for those going through so much.

For two days while emergency services worked tirelessly night and day to make the area safe for evacuees to return to their homes – and all-important normality – our truck was parked next to a van offering free coffees. I’m told more than 1,000 coffees were served in that time and, I can attest, with a comforting smile every time. The power of community at work.

Growing up in North Queensland, I’m no stranger to extreme weather events. I watched on from the NOC while assisting our Network Emergency Management team as Cyclone Debbie ripped through my home town in 2016.

Times like these bring out the absolute best in people, and the community spirit is inspiring. Whether it’s cyclones in the north, bushfires to the south, or floods and storms throughout, our country faces some of the most extreme weather events on the planet – and pitching in where we can is something we are absolutely dedicated to here at NBN Co.

When it comes to our network, it’s vital that people in disaster prone areas understand that services over the nbn™ network won’t work in a power outage. There are resources on our website that I encourage you to understand and share with your friends and family so you can be prepared in the event of an emergency:

Prepare for an emergency

What happens in a power blackout? Information about your landline

Our thoughts are with all those affected in the Tathra community as they now face the aftermath of these terrible bushfires, and express our gratitude with emergency services personnel for their tireless work in the region.

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