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Alexandra vols 50 years of comms
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
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
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.