Mallacoota bushfire evacuation showed value of Cradlepoint pop-up network

Posted by Michelle Lewis on June 23, 2020

mallacoota fire

The country watched in disbelief on the very first day of 2020, as a lightening-sparked bushfire tore through Victorian bushland. Towering flames engulfed 20 kilometres of terrain in just five hours.

 

In Mallacoota, a small coastal hamlet in far east Victoria, the sky turned blood red. Visibility was down to just a few metres as the sun was obscured by the ash in the air.

1,500 tourists and locals - mums and dads, children and babies - were stranded on the beach, corralled by a wall of fire, with the one available overland escape route cut off.

At one stage, emergency services were planning for the possibility that the fire would come so close to the beach that people would have to get into the water to protect themselves. 

mallacoota bushfire

bushfire mallacoota

 

In due course, over five days, all would be safely evacuated.  The navy frigate, HMAS Choules and other naval ships would transport 1200 evacuees on a journey 20 hours' sailing time south to the port of Hastings. Another 500 people would be ferried out of the area by helicopter and other aircraft.  

 

mallacoota evac

mallacoota evacuation by navy

Evacuee processing centre powered by Cradlepoint

A temporary processing centre was quickly established at Hastings, near Melbourne, to account for the displaced evacuees, and to provide them with a safe haven.

A reliable 'instant' network was needed and Cradlepoint routers were requested and quickly dispatched to provide connectivity.  The routers were set up prior to dispatch, as there were no IT personnel on the ground.

With internet access, authorities were able to account for and process people swiftly and with empathy. Many of them had fled with little more than the clothes they were wearing.

Evacuees were also given access to Wi-Fi so they could let family and friends know they had made it to safety. 

mallacoota-relief-centre

 

Communications are a major challenge during the bushfires

Right from the start of the Mallacoota evacuation, one of the key challenges was communication. With the network in the area down, emergency services were having to estimate the number of people needing help, and the kind of supplies needed across the district. 

Initially, 18 satellite phones were put in containers and kicked out the back of an aircraft over Mallacoota with instructions for whoever found them to call the Bairnsdale Control Centre. 

It was symbolic of an issue that was prevalent across the bushfire zones around the country.  

Vulnerable communities during the summer bushfires struggled from lack of connectivity in three main areas, says Gavin Wilson, Cradlepoint Managing Director for Asia-Pacific.

"Compromised mobile tower coverage meant people were unable to communicate during a very stressful time.

"Local authorities were hampered in communicating critical updates, which saw many affected towns having to resort to using whiteboards or loudspeakers as ‘public square’ advisories.

"Businesses were also affected by network and power outages, leaving them unable to sell vital goods such as fuel and food."

fire

 

Failover and pop-up connectivity options needed

Having network technology that can provide failover or fast pop-up options for connectivity during disasters is essential for Australia's future bushfire readiness.

The Royal Commission into the bushfires is an important first step towards factoring failsafe options into planning for future connectivity, says Wilson.

"Looking forward, it’s imperative for Australian authorities to include network technology that can provide failover or fast pop-up options for connectivity that helps citizens stay in touch with loved ones, enables government and emergency agencies to provide timely information updates and enables essential businesses to continue to transact during disasters."

Wilson believes using 4G LTE solutions would be an improvement in communications technology for Australia's emergency services. He points to Cradlepoint's experience in the United States with the Anne Arundel County Fire Department. 

There, always-on connectivity and GPS location data was selected for its reliability in delivering accurate, real-time GPS information that would let operators dispatch the closest vehicle with the shortest response time for each emergency. It was important to have an all-in-one solution that would provide always-on WAN access and security of sensitive information. Additionally, the Department wanted a solution that could easily be deployed, monitored and managed remotely through a single pane of glass, says Wilson.

"Emergency services vehicles throughout Australia still rely on radio technologies to communicate with each other and back to base. However, there is an opportunity for emergency vehicles to upgrade to always-on, cloud-managed technologies with wireless networks."

mallacoota fire evac

MobileCorp is an Authorized Cradlepoint Partner

MobileCorp_Cradlepoint_Partner_FBAustralian MSP, MobileCorp, based in Sydney, has been an early adopter of Cradlepoint mobile and wireless edge solutions.

We are working with a number of Australian organisations to develop mobile, branch and IOT networks utilising Cradlepoint solutions.

We offer 

  • network solution architecture
  • hardware procurement or leasing
  • router configuration and deployment
  • NetCloud portal configuration
  • 24/7 monitoring of equipment and links
  • level 2 service desk including:
    • fault diagnosis and resolution
    • remote equipment diagnostic and reprogramming
    • phone support 
    • response and restoration targets
  • priority replacement program for hardware
  • device retrieval/redeployment program for security of hardware
  • monthly reporting
  • Telstra customers may have hardware and managed service fees charged against the monthly Telstra bill

What are the benefits of a Cradlepoint managed service?

Outsourcing Cradlepoint router configuration, deployment and ongoing management has significant benefits, for enterprises including:

  • To align with Cradlepoint subject matter experts
    utilise IT professionals who are Cradlepoint accredited experts and can achieve the desired result quickly and accurately, as well as adding value with advice gleaned from experience
  • To free up internal resources
    remove the burden of managing the equipment lifecycle, third party vendors, suppliers and service arrangements and the expense of hiring, training and updating internal IT skills
  • To realign internal resources to higher value tasks
    realign IT staff to higher value tasks and focus on strategic activities to meet current and future business needs.
  • To reduce network risk
    improve reliability and performance with advanced solutions and guaranteed proactive service levels including response and restoration targets
  • To maximise network performance
    help ensure your network delivers optimum support for your business through proper dimensioning and configuration
  • To boost growth and productivity
    leverage new technologies including integration with Unified Communications, security and Telstra cloud solutions

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About MobileCorp

MobileCorp is an Australian communications technology company providing Managed Mobility Services, Mobile Device Management, Complex Data and IP Networks, and Unified Communication solutions. We have a proven track record providing solution architecture, build, deployment, and managed services for Australian enterprise and business. We are also a Telstra Platinum Partner and have been a Telstra partner since 1988. About Us

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