Report into Warrnambool fire released

Media Release, 27 March 2013

Telstra today released its report into the Warrnambool Exchange fire including 22 recommendations to help prevent a similar incident occurring again and to improve the speed of recovery for customers if an exchange were to be similarly damaged in future.

The report concluded the 22 November 2012 fire was caused by a non-suspicious electrical fault, though the extent of the damage meant it was not possible to identify a single ignition source. Investigators believe the fire probably started in the ceiling of the maintenance control room or the maintenance control room itself.

Telstra’s Chief Operations Officer Brendon Riley said a number of key lessons had been learnt from the event and every recommendation made by the investigation team would be implemented.

“This report follows an exhaustive investigation into the fire and its impact on communications and we will put in place a range of physical, process and disaster recovery improvements to minimise the chance of something like this happening again,” Mr Riley said.

“We can never completely protect against this type of incident but we can learn from it to improve the resilience and robustness of our network across Australia for our customers.

“We are making the key findings of the report public so the people of South West Victoria can see what we’ve learnt and the improvements we are planning to make.

“We continue to engage with the local community and our compensation process that has been running for some months will remain open for a three year period. The restoration works in the exchange to make permanent temporary solutions installed in the immediate aftermath of the fire are also ongoing and should be completed by June this year.

“I apologise again to the people of South West Victoria for the impact the outage had on their lives and businesses,” Mr Riley said.

The report looked at a variety of issues arising from the fire, including root cause, customer impact, recovery effectiveness, network architecture, long term restoration and impact on emergency services.

Key recommendations include:

  • thermal image inspection of cabling and the installation of smoke detectors in the ceiling spaces;
  • additional building inspections to check a range of fire, power and airconditioning equipment;
  • physical separation of key cables connected into the exchange to minimise potential of all critical infrastructure being affected by one incident; and,
  • additional offsite back up of critical and complex configuration data to allow for quick re-loading of network configurations in the event of trouble.

A summary version of the conclusions and recommendations is here. The full copy of the executive summary is available here.

Any customers who are still experiencing faults, billing issues or compensation queries can contact Telstra on 1800 171 355.