In an Australian-first, 26 digital information screens have been installed across the NSW Shoalhaven region to provide year-round authoritative, accurate and timely information to communities.
Shoalhaven City Council Mayor, Amanda Findley says the screens will display real-time information including the daily fire danger rating, weather from the Bureau of Meteorology and local community and Council events information unique to each location they are installed at.
The screens have been delivered as part of a $2 million Council initiative jointly funded by the Australian and NSW Governments in response to the community’s experience of the 2019-20 Currowan Bushfires, where critical communication was severely impacted by power outages and disruptions to the mobile phone network.
The Mayor says the new communications system will buoy resilience of communities in how to think, decide and act in the best interests of their safety and wellbeing.
“We saw how standard communications failed during the worst of the bushfire emergency and people felt isolated and unable to make informed decisions.”
“These digital screens will provide residents with reliable and current information that can be updated in an instant and tailored for each specific community to be an accurate source of truth,” Mayor Findley said.
The project was managed and coordinated by former Fleet Air Arm Commander and Shoalhaven Recovery Coordinator, Vince Di Pietro.
“We know from what we saw on the ground and the many testimonies given to the NSW Government’s Independent Inquiry into the Summer 2020 Bushfires, that the lack of access to timely, accurate, local information was a significant cause of community concern during the bushfires,” Mr Di Pietro said.
“Providing infrastructure that’s robust enough to overcome the vulnerabilities of standard power through stand-alone solar power systems and satellite communications will make all the difference.
“An emergency doesn’t generally happen in an instance or an immediate vicinity: it builds and may travel long distances over a period of time. Ensuring timely and accurate information helps people with decision making – informed decision making helps people to build resilience to respond better to future emergencies,” he said.
Federal MP, Fiona Phillips said the initiative places the Shoalhaven at the forefront of national resilience projects.
“Since the bushfires, it’s been clear that our telecommunications and emergency power needed urgent improvement. I am absolutely delighted that this grant has strengthened our local infrastructure and ensured our community is better prepared for any future disasters,” Mrs Phillips said.
Each information hub includes a technology upgrade providing satellite connection powered by solar panels delivered to the state of the art 13.5-kilowatt Tesla Powerwall2 battery and 55” portrait information screens accessible both internally and externally to the Council owned facilities where they are installed.
The Community Information Hubs are located across the city at 26 locations including all showgrounds, four Holiday Haven tourist parks and Wandandian Progress Association Hall.