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Australian Bushfires Causing Major Telecommunication Outages, Hams Asked to Remain Alert


[UPDATED 2020-01-05 @1704 UTC] Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA) President Greg Kelly, VK2GPK, says the bushfires in Australia have caused or are expected to cause significant disruption of telecommunication services in the states of Victoria and New South Wales.

“The scope and range of these impacts is unknown at this stage but are predicted to cover all internet and phone (fixed and mobile) and other commercial radio services,” Kelley said. Radio amateurs are supporting relief operations and communication.

WICEN (Wireless Institute Civil Emergency Network) in New South Wales reports it has been active assisting in a number of multi-agency activities during the bushfire emergency, in its role as a support squad of the NSW Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA) operations center in Bega. WICEN teams in NSW and in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) have sent a team to Bega, to help re-establish radio communication services, disrupted by fire activity.

WICEN and other VRA squads continue to support the Rural Fire Service (RFS) at various Fire Control Centers and the Bushfire Information Line. Other WICEN members remain active with the RFS and the State Emergency Service.

Kelley has asked radio amateurs in International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Region 3 to monitor the emergency communications frequencies, per the IARU Region 3 band plan, whenever possible, as well as repeaters. “Amateurs seeking to establish emergency communication should use these EMCOMM frequencies in the first instance, or repeaters if available,” he said in a statement posted on the IARU Region 3 website.

“Radio amateurs who are volunteers for [WICEN and other emergency communication organizations] should keep themselves updated," Kelley advised. "Emergency communication is one of the main reasons radio amateurs have access to RF spectrum. Please assist if and when you can.”

The IARU Region 3 emergency “center of activity” frequencies are 3.600, 7.110, 14.300, 18.160, and 21.360 MHz. These are not net frequencies, but they are recommended as starting points for emergency traffic, and activity may extend 5 kHz above or below the designated center frequency.

South of NSW in the state of Victoria, WICEN VIC reports that the amateur repeater network is largely off the air, possibly due to a lack of power. “Some sites may have been directly affected by fire,” WICEN VIC reported on January 4.

“It could be some weeks until the sites can be reached for inspection.  The Mt Taylor UHF repeater, which is currently linked to the Carrajung UHF repeater, is still operational, although Mt Taylor has been under direct threat a few times, and currently has an ‘Evacuate Now’ warning to the area immediately north.”




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