Telstra reveals lessons learnt from the Warrnambool Exchange fire

Telstra has pinpointed an electrical fault as the main culprit for the Warrnambool Exchange fire that put more than 65,000 telephone services out of commission in November last year.

The telco has released its report on the Warrnambool Exchange outage,  along with 22 recommendations to ensure that a similar scenario doesn’t pay out again.

The report also prescribes the methodology to improve the speed of recovery in case of an outage of similar magnitude.

According to Telstra, the November 22 fire was caused by a non-suspicious electrical fault, however, 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,” the report said.

The key recommendations in the report 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 air-conditioning 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.

Read the full copy of the executive summary here.

The telco’s chief operations officer Brendon Riley said that the exhaustive investigation has been a valuable experience, especially when it comes to reinforcing network resilience. He added that every recommendation in the report will 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 in a statement.

“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.”

The Victorian government has put the direct cost of the outage to the area at $17.9 million. Mr Riley said that Telstra continues to engage with the local community with regards to compensation.

The compensation process, already under way, will remain open for a three year period. The restoration works at the Warrnambool Exchange are expected to be completed by June.  

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