7 February 2024

Emergency services prepare further backup in case of outage

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Paramedics on Cape York say there are no plans to extend Starlink redundancies at any of its Cape York bases apart from Bamaga and Thursday Island. Photo: Supplied.

Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) will soon install another backup connection system at its stations in Bamaga and Thursday Island to ensure operators can connect to paramedics when there is an outage.

Starlink, which will be fixed at the two stations, goes by satellite technology and can be used when there is no cellular service.

QAS Acting Commissioner for the Far Northern Region Brina Keating said the Bamaga and Thursday Island stations used the Telstra cellular network, which would stay.

“Starlink isn’t our primary use,” she said.

“It’s just an additional way to make sure that we’re connected and that every way we contact our officers and paramedics is reliable.”

Acting Commissioner Keating said there were no immediate plans to install the technology anywhere else on Cape York, like the Coen and Weipa QAS bases, but they will assess how useful the technology is.

The decision comes less than a fortnight after most of Cape York lost Telstra service for about 40 hours, during which time many residents were unable to call triple-zero for almost 20 hours.

“They’re our priority areas at the moment, because of the information we’ve had up to this point, but we’re just going to assess it and see how we go,” Acting Commissioner Keating said.

“This is relatively new technology, so we like to try all these things and see how they go first, and make sure it lives up to our expectations, so that’s why we’ve only rolled it out in a few areas.”

She assured the community that Starlink was simply another backup, and that paramedics also had another satellite option called Push to Talk.

“If we didn’t have Starlink, the paramedics would still respond to the case,” Acting Commissioner Keating said.

“It’s really important for people in the Torres and Cape to know that we can access and talk to our paramedics, even when there is an outage.

“I understand that communities are quite concerned about not having connectivity all the time, but from an emergency services point of view, we are well connected, and we have redundant technologies to make sure we are still able to respond when there is outages in those areas.”

There are also emergency phones at the front of ambulance stations in Bamaga, Coen, Cooktown, Thursday Island and Weipa.

For when there is cellular service, she also advised residents to download the Emergency Plus app.

“It’s a free app that tells you exactly where you are if you needed to call Triple Zero but didn’t know where you are,” Acting Commissioner Keating said.

“Particularly in the Torres and Cape with long stretches of road, it can be really helpful, and can actually give you the latitude and longitude and also the street address.”

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