Telstra announces review of Warrnambool Exchange fire

Media Release, 29 November 2012

Telstra today announced it would conduct a detailed review of the fire that partially destroyed Telstra’s Warrnambool exchange and impacted phone, broadband, mobile and radio services across south-western Victoria.

The far-reaching operational review will be led by Telstra’s Director of Fixed and Data Access Engineering David Piltz, one of Telstra’s most experienced network executives. The review will assess Telstra’s prevention measures, business continuity and recovery planning, as well as the tactical response to restoring services.

As part of the review Telstra will also engage an independent expert to assess and report on the situation.

Telstra’s Chief Operations Officer Brendon Riley said the review outcomes would be an important contribution to the Federal Government’s inquiry into the fire, announced yesterday by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

“We apologise to the people of Warrnambool and the surrounding districts for the impact the fire has had on their lives, businesses and community, and thank them for their patience during the recovery. We understand the seriousness of the situation for our customers and agree a detailed review is needed,” Mr Riley said.

“This review is about understanding what happened and ensuring we identify and adopt any relevant improvements into our network planning and procedures.”

Restoration work is continuing on site, with close to 100 technicians from around the country working shifts around the clock to bring services back online as quickly as possible, however the damage to the exchange is significant and the full restoration effort will take time.

”Service impacts of this scale are rarely seen outside disaster situations in fact we believe this is  the most significant impact on customer service from a specific exchange event in Telstra’s history,” Mr Riley said.

“Despite the scale of the damage we have made good progress to date, however I understand questions from the community about the time required to restore services and the capability of back-up facilities.

“We have deployed significant mobile infrastructure to provide interim services and the local team has engaged with the Warrnambool City Council and other local stakeholders to keep them informed of the situation. This will continue until we see full restoration of all services.”

Telstra also announced today that no customers will be sent bills until all accounts have been reviewed and adjustments have been made. Additionally, fixed line and ADSL customers that have been impacted by the fire will have one month’s line rental credited to their account. Telstra will ensure that any of their customers who used their mobile service as their primary phone or data service while their fixed line was unavailable for calls or data will not incur additional standard* usage charges above their included plan allowance.

Our primary focus at the moment remains on restoration and repair efforts.  We will assess compensation on a case by case basis however our priority is to get our customers back up and running.

* excludes Premium SMS, Int’l calls, etc

About David Piltz

David Piltz has almost 40 years experience in Telecommunications Networks with Telstra. Currently, David manages the Telstra Access Network Planning and Technology capability nationally, including work on the South Brisbane Fibre Upgrade Project. During his career with Telstra, he has led engineering teams working on the Core Network, the Telstra National Transmission Network and the planning and deployment of all fixed infrastructure in Victoria and Tasmania.

David was also involved in the recovery plans for the restoration of telecommunications plant following the Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria in February 2009 and was responsible for the creation of the MEOW (mobile exchange on wheels), which were deployed after Black Saturday, the Queensland floods and are now operational in Warrnambool.

David has a Bachelor of Engineering Hons (Electrical Engineering) from the University of Adelaide.