The importance of technology in helping people to stay in contact and informed during a natural disaster proved paramount last summer.
Fortunately for Gippsland, 10 local towns are among the first in the state to receive a new nbn Disaster Satellite Service.
“We have all seen how crucial access to information is during a natural disaster and through the recovery period afterwards,” Mr Chester said.
“These new satellite dishes are in locations which act as evacuation centres during emergencies and will boost the number of temporary emergency service networks available.”
Nbn Disaster Satellite Services have been installed at Bairnsdale City Oval, Paynesville Recreation Reserve, Buchan Recreation Reserve, Cann River Recreation Reserve, Mallacoota Main Hall, Lakes Entrance Mechanics Hall, Orbost Cricket Club Oval, Licola Wilderness Village and Omeo Recreation Reserve.
A satellite dish will be installed at the Dargo Bush Nursing Centre in January.
The services will provide support for disaster-affected communities when the usual communications networks go down temporarily due to power loss or infrastructure damage.
Up to 100 people can connect to the satellite services at a time, though the dishes need a power source.
NBN Co also has a ‘road muster fleet’ including satellite-equipped 4WD utes and trucks that allow people within 20-metres of the vehicle to connect their devices via wi-fi.
The screens in the back can be used to show videos and as a television, while the larger trucks can serve as a meeting space.
Powered by battery and a backup generator, the units were used in New South Wales and Queensland during last summer’s fires.
NBN Co chief development officer regional and remote, Gavin Williams, said the devastation of last summer reinforced the importance of connectivity in disaster situations and the role NBN Co could play with retail service providers in supporting communities when they were most in need.
“By providing free satellite wi-fi services and mobile device charging facilities during the emergency, we were able to help keep families and loved ones connected and provide vital communication services into areas that otherwise might not have had them,” Mr Williams said.
The dishes are among hundreds to be installed around Australia through the Federal Government’s Strengthening Telecommunications Against Natural Disaster (STAND) program, $37 million investment in the resilience of the communications network.
“The dishes will be activated to provide internet access to emergency service personnel and evacuees at the centres so they can receive updates, stay in touch with family and friends and access other important information,” Mr Chester said.
“This is an important investment in Gippsland’s communications infrastructure to ensure we can stay in touch, stay informed and, most importantly, stay safe at these critical times.”
Five new satellite dish-equipped Road Muster trucks and 12 satellite dishes in travel kits are also funded through the STAND program.
The Road Muster trucks and satellite dish travel kits can be deployed anywhere in Australia to provide temporary broadband connectivity to communities that have been hit by a natural disaster.
The satellite trucks connect to the internet via the NBN Co satellites and provide internet connectivity within 20 metres of the vehicle via wi-fi.
The satellite travel kits are portable satellite dishes in large briefcases, which can be delivered to remote locations to provide access to high-speed broadband.
Federal Member for Gippsland, Darren Chester, with nbn local Victoria/Tasmania head, Emily Peel, and one of the Road Muster vehicles. nbn Disaster Satellite Services have been installed on the roof of the clubhouse at Bairnsdale City Oval. K478-3987