Fiona Kotvojs outside the Yass River-Nanima RFS shed where an emergency satellite service has been set up for today’s demonstration

Yass River-Nanima RFS has been fitted with a demonstration NBN SkyMuster satellite service as part of the Government’s bushfire resilience program, which will deliver 2000 emergency satellite services nationwide. The program is designed to support telecommunications continuity at rural fire stations and evacuation centres during times of bushfire and other natural disasters.

The Hon Paul Fletcher, Federal Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts will this morning be joined by Eden-Monaro candidate Dr Fiona Kotvojs at the Yass River RFS station, Nanima Bush Fire Brigade. A demonstration of the NBN satellite services working with RFS equipment and as a WiFi hotspot will take place.

While the Rural Fire Service welcomes any improvement to communications, spokesperson Lachlan Gilchrist, Operational Officer for the Southern Tablelands Zone wants to stress to the community that an RFS brigade station is not an evacuation centre unless it has been designated a neighbourhood safer place. Mr Gilchrist emphasised that the Yass River-Nanima brigade shed has not been identified as an evacuation point for the public in the event of a bush fire.

“The demonstration of the backup satellite service at the Yass River RFS station will show how rural fire stations and evacuation centres will use the facilities to be deployed under the resilience boosting program,” Minister Fletcher stated earlier to the Yass Valley Times.

“Following the 2019-20 bushfire season, which impacted Eden-Monaro heavily, the Morrison Government has moved quickly on a new program to make our telecommunications networks more resilient in the face of bushfires and natural disasters.” Minister Fletcher stated earlier.

RFS depots already have fixed-line services, but a satellite connection would provide a redundant link when fixed-line connections are severed. It would also provide sufficient capacity to allow Wi-Fi to be provided at RFS depots and evacuation centres to both the community and emergency service organisations.

“I am really excited for the Yass River Fire Brigade – this SkyMuster satellite will make a world of difference for the Brigade and the local community,” Dr Kotvojs told us ahead of today’s demonstration.

A volunteer fire-fighter herself, Fiona Kotvojs said the rollout of 2000 emergency satellite services would have an immediate impact during a bush fire.

“When we went through the fires at Cobargo and Dignams Creek there was an enormous difference between parts of the community where communications remained intact and ones where they didn’t. You could see the difference it made, not just to people’s safety, but also to their stress and anxiety levels,” Dr Kotvojs said.

The Rural Fire Service would like to stress again to the community that the Yass River-Nanima brigade location was used as a demonstration site only by the Federal Government and the brigade shed is not an evacuation site in the event of an emergency.

 

In May this year, the Morrison Government announced $37.1 million in funding to strength telecommunications resilience in bushfire and disaster-prone areas so that communities can stay connected during emergencies. This package consists of a $7 million program to deliver enhanced telecommunications for rural fire authorities and evacuation centres.

The Yass River-Nanima brigade location is being used as a demonstration site today and is yet to be assessed for eligibility.

“There will be a formal process to go through to identify and prioritise deployment sites in consultation with state and territory emergency service agencies. We expect a high number of RFS stations across Eden Monaro will benefit from this program,” Minister Fletcher advised.

“If elected, as a member of Government I will be able to advocate for further investment in emergency backup communication equipment for communities across Eden-Monaro and help build bushfire resilience,” Dr Kotvojs said.

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