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Radio communication improves as blackspots removed
Relying on transportable repeaters to cover local command channel radio communication blackspots has all but been alleviated with the last of 78 new transmitters now completed at Mt Tara, near Buchan, in District 11.
The ‘radio blackspots’ program rolled out after the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission recommended CFA review and improve its communications strategy as a matter of priority and develop a program for identifying and responding to black spots in radio coverage.
With more than $6 million in funding, CFA developed a strategy to identify gaps in radio coverage, create an action plan and carry out the works at 78 identified sites around Victoria.
ICT Service’s Lee Kirkby said the result was better communications during incident management, both for interoperability, divisional and sector command at large scale incidents and at local command level.
“By putting in place more permanent radio communications, we have enhanced radio coverage, which improves firefighter safety, command communications and intelligence gathering. Incident control information can be relayed quickly and accurately, which improves planning capability.”
In fact, between CFA’s new and upgraded sites and DELWP’s radio repeater sites, Lee said there was now “significant coverage of both private and public land across Victoria” when it comes to emergency radio communication.
The blackspots program involved work on 78 sites across Victoria, including building infrastructure at new sites, as well as upgrading interim despatch sites, bringing CFA’s command channel radio repeaters across Victoria to 118 in total.
- Building 52 new VF radio base station repeater sites
- Upgrading 26 interim CFA dispatch radio sites
- Upgrading 4 transportable repeaters
We were also able to work with stakeholders with infrastructure already in place to co-locate CFA’s equipment, such as at ESTA’s paging sites, DELWP’s fire-spotting towers and Telstra and Optus transmission sites.
Another positive outcome of the project was the upgrade of all communications sites from analogue to digital technology, as well the opportunity to make other enhancements, such as the provision of a UHF CB radio transmitter for the local community at Licola in District 10.
Although the last radio base repeater station has now been built, the project is on-going as there is a process now in place for continual review to ensure other blackspots identified in the future are remedied.