News & Media

Alexandra vols 50 years of comms

  • The late WC (Bill) Price using the H/F base station
  • Current Communications Officer Rosey Chester, with a portable UHF link radio

By: Duncan Russell

Category: People

  12.09 PM 8 November, 2013

Location: District 12 News

Views: 2916

On 8 December 2013, local brigades will for the first time have direct radio contact with the Vicfire dispatch operators from the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) in Ballarat.

By John Rogers

When the Alexandra Fire Brigades Group first formed in January 1963, the first Group Communications Officer, Mr Bill Price, who owned and operated a television and radio repair business in Alexandra, set about establishing a radio communications network between local brigades using high frequency (HF) transceivers using the call sign VL3UX Alexandra.

The base station was located in the garage next to his home near the old Ford garage in Perkins Street. Although it wasn't the first to be established in Victoria by CFA volunteers, very few such facilities existed at that time.

This began a listening watch by a small number of local volunteers, that has operated around the clock, 365 days of the year for the last 50 years and, by December this year, will have logged up some 443,500 hours of combined duty.

In 1977, the original HF radios were replaced by a new CFA Very High Frequency (VHF) network. This transmitter was located on a hill south-east of Alexandra township, and later relocated to its present site on Rennies Hill, where it began operation on 20 May 1978.

The transmitter was linked to the town via telephone lines connected to the Group Headquarters in Perkins St, the Communications Officer’s garage and later, that of an assistant Communications officer.

In 1998, the telephone lines to the Rennies Hill transceiver were replaced by a Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radio link allowing greater flexibility in rostering operators to cover absences of the communications officer due to illness or holidays.

In more recent years, a second remotely controlled transmitter located on Mt Gordon was brought into operation, giving greater coverage in black spot areas around Narbethong and Marysville.

In the 50-year history of the Alexandra Fire Brigades Group, the following people have served the brigades and the community by taking part in this service.

Comms Officers                               Asst Comms Officers

Mr Bill Price BEM 1963-1980           MR G Harland  1986-1994      

Mr P Feehan         1980-1982           Mrs D Jackson 1994-1999

Mr Ian Peters        1982-1987           M/s J Carter        1999-2000

Mrs E Hoskin        1987-1997           Mr I Shearn         2001-2002

Mr J Hoskin           1997-1998           Mrs L Luckman  2002-2004

Mrs Rosey Chester 1998 (current)  Mrs S Delaney  2004 (current)

                                                           Ms R Crawford   2005 (current)     

As well as the present communications officer, Rosey Chester, and assistants Sue Delaney and Robyn Crawford, four other volunteers currently serve on the roster to cover Fridays, Saturdays and other absences. They are the Group Officer Mr A Layton, Mr P Rice AFSM, Mr J Kilpatrick and Mr J Rogers.

Although from December the new system initially will handle all dispatch and operational calls, if an incident escalates to a point of requiring the establishment of a level two or level three incident control centre, operational radio traffic will revert to the current analogue VHF system using local incident radio channels operated by CFA group personnel and/or DEPI staff.                 

Last Updated: 08 November 2013