Historical distribution of duration of unplanned power outages in Queensland: Insights for sustaining telecommunications during disasters

Watcharachai Kongsiriwattana, Paul Gardner-Stephen

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


In early 2017, Cyclone Debbie caused widespread damage and disruption to electricity supply and other infrastructure in Queensland and New South Wales. This placed considerable strain on citizens and responders alike, as they sought to find ways to keep their mobile telephones charged. Despite the advance warning of the cyclone, news reports suggest that considerable portions of the population were not prepared for the extended duration of power loss that occurred, and in some cases continued for weeks or months. Through analysis of eleven years of finegrained data from the Queensland electricity network covering the years 2005 through 2016, it becomes apparent that widespread and long-lasting blackouts are not uncommon in this region. In this paper we use a simple mobile phone battery life prediction model to predict the number of mobile phones that would be flat on an hour-by-hour basis over the eleven years. This data clearly demonstrates that it is not feasible to extend mobile phone battery life so as to prevent battery depletion in such events, and that the policy focus should therefore be on ensuring that alternative means of recharging are easily available. It also demonstrates the likely impact that time-of-day has on the exhaustion of mobile telephone battery life. From the Queensland data and mobile phone battery life models we infer an initial model of the number of lives lost per year due to the inability to call emergency services due to flat mobile telephone batteries. While this model is still unrefined, it suggests that flat mobile telephone batteries result in a comparable number of deaths per year in Queensland alone, as Australia's infamously deadly wildlife cause for all of Australia. Finally, we explain how market forces mean that mobile telephone battery life cannot be expected to increase over time to solve this problem, and that alternative means of recharging mobile telephone batteries are therefore required.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2017
Event2017 IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference (GHTC) - San Jose, United States
Duration: 19 Oct 201722 Oct 2017


Conference2017 IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference (GHTC)
Abbreviated titleGHTC 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Jose


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