AN independent study into the social impact of last year’s Telstra exchange fire will be released on the anniversary of the blackout next month.
The comprehensive survey by RMIT University detailing the social cost and disruption from the crippling outage is entering its final month and will soon be made public at events in Warrnambool and Hamilton.
So far more than 400 responses covering south-west communities have been gathered by researchers to help form a response on future blackouts for bushfires or floods.
The financial cost of the telco meltdown and rebuilding the exchange has remained at the forefront. But the effect on the elderly, community groups and those outside the region trying to call home has made up only a peripheral part of the discussion.
“We’re aware of the business issues but this is more focused on people who were vulnerable or isolated,” researcher Ken Howell said
“Some people fell through the cracks.
“It is hard to quantify.”
Mr Howell said RMIT was also testing ideas put forward by Telstra in the wake of the disaster to ensure people were not cut off again.
“One of the interesting ones was that people could have a spare phone on a different carrier in case it happened again ... it seemed to me to be an impractical finding.”
Business and families outside the south-west have contributed to the findings.
“There were fly-in fly-out husbands who were trying to phone home and couldn’t get through so they became very worried,” Mr Howell said.
The finished report will be handed to state and federal governments to form back-up plans for when the lines are down.
“There’s no doubt that there will be events again where people lose contact,” he said.
Later this month focus groups will also be held across communities including Warrnambool, Heywood, Hamilton, Digby, Camperdown, Cavendish, Hey-wood, Casterton and Nullawarre.