Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull attended a community meeting on Wednesday to praise firefighters and offer condolences to those affected by the fatal bushfires that killed four people in Esperance, Australia.
According to ABC News, the blaze also burnt through more than 130,000 hectares of bushland and farm crops, destroying buildings and killing thousands of sheep and cattle.
A major concern identified after the tragedy, was poor mobile phone coverage and the necessity to keep mobile phone towers in areas susceptible to bushfires operational during disasters. The mobile towers in the area relied on backup battery power when the electricity supplies shut down. The battery lifespan is only eight hours. After that they need to be reconnected to generators, but given the treacherous conditions, workers were unable to access them.
Will Carmody, who led a team of firefighters to fight the flames, attended the briefing with the Prime Minister. “It certainly is going to be a developing thing. Communication was one of our problems during the fires.”
Prime Minister Turnbull agreed, “There’s clearly a problem with towers if they only last eight hours [on reserve batteries]. We need to look at longer battery [lives]…we have to keep on improving the technology.”
Esperance Shire president Victoria Brown described her discussions with the Prime Minister to ABC News as open. “Certainly he was very interested in the telecommunications and asked many questions about why it failed and indicated that this would be an area that he would like to discuss further with the aim of making it better,” she said.
The Prime Minister spoke about the importance of improving mobile phone black spots with his government’s $54 million investment in telecommunications, reported WA Today. “We learn from every natural disaster, we learn so we can respond better for the next one..and we have to keep on responding with better technology.”