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State-of-the-art, open-standards radio system to aid battle against bushfires

A Telstra-led consortium with Tait Communications and AA Radio is working to help make Victoria's firefighters safer.

Six-thousand new radios are being installed in firefighting vehicles, aircraft, incident control centres, fire towers and work centres throughout Victoria, Australia.

The US$22.9 million project is being led by the Department of Primary Industries and Environment (DEPI).

Victoria's Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith commented: "Communications are a crucial part of effective bushfire response. Upgrading communications infrastructure enhances the capability of our emergency services to protect communities and firefighting personnel from bushfire.

"Each radio unit will be equipped with a GPS tracking system enabling incident managers to track the location of vehicles and firefighters in real time—improving fire-ground operations, logistics and firefighter safety," said Mr Smith.

"The new radios are also compatible with CFA systems along with those of the SES and our neighbouring states, which will simplify communications between the firefighting agencies when they are working together on the fireground."

Two-thousand radios are expected to be installed during the next six months, with the remainder scheduled for installation ahead of the 2014/15 fire season.

Mr Smith said the replacement of the radios addressed, in part, recommendation 22 from the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission. The recommendation calls for standardisation of information and communications systems within DEPI and the Country Fire Authority (CFA).

"I'm proud of the progress the Coalition Government has made in preparing the state for bushfires. There has been a lot of hard work done in response to the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, including projects such as this," said Mr Smith.

"We're committed to reducing the risk of bushfires and making Victorians safer."

About the new radios

  • DEPI manages the Network Emergency Organisations (NEO) radio terminal fleet comprising DEPI, Parks Victoria, VicForests, and Melbourne Water

  • After a public expression of interest and selective tender process, a consortium comprising Telstra, Tait Communications and AA Radio won the contract

  • The new radios are compatible with the existing DEPI / CFA communications infrastructure, the State Mobile Radio Trunked Network, and DEPI / CFA Incident Channel Networks and fire-ground communications

  • Interoperability with SES and bordering states' communications systems has been incorporated

  • The new radios allow for an easy transition to the new digital P25 emergency service standards and planned digital future for Victorian communications networks

  • Global Positioning System (GPS) displays enable users of in-vehicle and hand held radio units to use multiple mapping formats to provide enhanced interoperability

  • Where a network exists, the GPS information is sent back to the DEPI tracking system and displayed on FireMap for vehicle tracking, allowing commanders to see the location of resources

  • Enhanced battery life, increasing reliability when long operations shifts are required. Radios and portable units are water proof ensuring they are suitable for marine rescues and fire operations.

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