The working group created and coordinated by ANACOM to find solutions to improve the protection of telecommunications networks in the event of forest fires today publicly presents the final report, which includes 27 measures whose implementation will reduce the impact of fires on telecommunications infrastructure.
It should be remembered that following the forest fires in June and October 2017, the people affected by the damage and destruction caused were deprived of service for several months. It is intended to mitigate this situation and, if possible, to prevent it from happening again in the future.
This working group emerged in the wake of the preliminary report on «Forest Fires - Measures for the Protection and Resilience of Electronic Communications Infrastructurehttps://www.anacom.pt/render.jsp?contentId=1421363», prepared by ANACOM, which identified a number of measures to improve the security and integrity of electronic communications networks and services.
The 27 measures set out are all of great importance to increase the protection and resilience of telecommunications infrastructure. They result from collaboration between ACIST, Altice/MEO, ANACOM, Autoridade Nacional de Proteção Civil (National Civil Protection Authority), APRITEL, Direção-Geral de Energia e Geologia (Directorate General of Energy and Geology), DSTelecom, EDP Distribuição, ERSE, FIBROGLOBAL, Infraestruturas de Portugal, Instituto de Telecomunicações (Telecommunications Institute), NOS, NOWO/ONI, REN and VODAFONE.
Some of these measures are summarized below:
- Use of radio-relay beams as an alternative to overhead cable layouts or to ensure redundancy in the network, which should be activated in the event of failure in the cable network.
- Also in order to ensure redundancy in areas at high risk of forest fire, it is proposed to promote the use of satellite links.
- It is considered important to change from overhead pathways of electronic communications cables to underground systems, using existing structures or constructing new ones.
- It is recommended to establish conditions that promote the construction of structures that can accommodate electronic communications cables in underground pathways in areas of very high and high risk of forest fire. For example, it is proposed that when construction or upgrading works are carried out on roads in the municipal and national networks, or on the railway network, a road or railway technical duct should always be included in such construction or upgrading works. It must be suitable for hosting public electronic communications networks.
- Several measures are proposed to protect the sites where the stations and antennas are located, namely, (i) the creation of a 1-2 m paved strip around the sites; (ii) cutting and thinning the forest canopy and shrubs, establishing a minimum distance of 5 m to the site; (iii) cleaning the ground around the radiocommunications station by cutting and removing the vegetation within a suitable range of 50 m.
- It is proposed to establish rules, with the appropriate legal framework, for the creation and maintenance of a fire protection band of suitable width along the aerial pathways of communications cables in areas of high and very high forest fire risk. This would include the possibility of sharing the protection bands with companies in the electric power sector.
- A number of measures are proposed to ensure power resilience on telecommunication sites, including the development of a technical specification for the implementation of emergency energy (e.g. batteries) and emergency power solutions (e.g. generator set) with the possible sharing of equipment.
- It is proposed to establish conditions for the installation of a system to detect forest fires automatically in the vicinity of the sites and the subsequent issuing of a warning to the competent authorities.
- It is recommended to approve and revise municipal emergency plans for civil protection and forest fire protection for areas at greatest risk of forest fires. These must ensure the improved protection of the electronic communications infrastructure, which is an important operational infrastructure needed to ensure essential services in the event of emergencies arising from forest fires.
- Finally, a measure of particular relevance is the analysis of the requirements and technical solutions for the establishment of a programme to develop an emergency communications plan for national roaming in a disaster situation, for example by using a set of cards.
Implementing the 27 measures identified and characterized requires further work and action from a number of public and private organizations, including some that did not participate in this working group.
Implementation of the measures now depends on the intervention, co-responsibility and funding of various bodies. The result of this work must therefore be accepted by the Assembly of the Republic, the Government, local authorities and regional governments, and by other public bodies whose action is also key to achieving the proposed objectives. These latter are the National Civil Protection Authority, ERSE, the Institute of Mobility and Transport, IPMA, the Directorate General of Energy and Geology, the Institute of Conservation of Nature and Forest and the recently created AGIF IP. All of them must carry out the necessary actions in accordance with their competences.
It is also worth noting that the actions to be undertaken by ANACOM and the electronic communications, energy and transport infrastructure companies, the installers and the owners of infrastructure structures suitable for hosting electronic communications networks, will be decisive for their implementation.
The 27 measures are divided into four major areas:
1. hertzian beams as an alternative to overhead cable pathways;
2. hertzian beams for implementation of redundancy;
3. satellite connections for implementation of redundancy.
4. installation of electronic communications infrastructure in underground pathways;
5. encouraging the change from overhead cabling to underground pathways;
6. depth of ducts and the distance between manholes in underground pathways in areas of high forest fire risk;
7. legislative and procedural uniformity (authorities, local authorities).
Energy and Protection:
8. creation of a paved track around sites;
9. pruning forest canopy around the sites;
10. removal of vegetation;
11. cleaning area within the sites;
12. protection and resilience of cable entries at stations;
13. protective band along the overhead cable pathways;
14. energy resilience on sites;
15. monitoring of sites with LV power supply;
16. implementation of standby or emergency power at the sites;
17. fuel reserves for the sites;
18. protection of sites against lightning strikes;
19. installation of sensors at the sites
20. coordination with municipal emergency plans for civil protection and forest fire protection (including communications stations);
21. drafting risk maps;
22. security perimeter management (access and escort);
23. intersectoral procedures for detection, response and mitigation;
24. procedures for coordination between authorities and companies;
25. coordination procedures for regulators (ANACOM, ERSE);
26. national Roaming;27. shared infrastructure best practice manual.
João Cadete de Matos, ANACOM's Chairman.