Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, and Optus have released findings of a joint nationwide project to improve bushfire resilience of critical telecommunications.

Since mid-2020, CSIRO and Optus have collaborated on a study of the potential impacts of embers, radiation and flame on and around Optus’ sites with telecommunications equipment. These learnings have been used to assess which sites were most at risk, and the priority site design changes.

Information on topography, fuel load, vegetation type and local bushfire weather severity was used to develop maps which then inform resiliency decisions for this critical infrastructure.

Bushfire hazard and planning maps are early examples of the types of products being develop by CSIRO’s National Bushfire Intelligence Capabilities (NBIC) project which is seeking to develop relevant bushfire hazard mapping products for a wide range of infrastructure types ranging from residential housing to critical infrastructure.

Optus is implementing the recommended mitigations at 2 of its sites in Victoria, Seville East and Dixons Creek, as reference examples for a larger, longer-term resiliency program and also to act as demonstration sites to help other infrastructure owners understand the learnings.

In addition to using the findings to identify and invest in the most impactful upgrades, Optus has developed in-house training and site assessment tools to increase employees’ awareness of the threat to landscape and improve response preparedness. It has started training its contractors to improve future design and builds, or to call out existing site concerns.

CSIRO has a 70-year history of conducting bushfire research to help Australia respond to a changing and variable climate and build the resilience of our nation.

“CSIRO has provided Optus with science and technology-based solutions that address a major threat facing all industries which rely on critical infrastructure: bushfires,” said Justin Leonard, CSIRO’s Research Leader for Bushfire Adaptation.

“The research can inform resiliency decisions across a number of industries, including telecommunications, energy and emergency services.”

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