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Country Fire Authority brigades across Victoria will be able to communicate directly with dispatchers when a digital communications network is rolled out over the next 18 months.

Telstra and Motorola Solutions will build and maintain a new $42.9 million Regional Radio Dispatch Service (RRDS) digital radio infrastructure for Victoria’s CFA. It will double as the radio network for all emergency services in regional Victoria.

The new network was announced today by Victoria’s Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Kim Wells. CFA Chief Officer, Euan Ferguson, said the network will provide regional brigades with direct radio communications to the dispatch operators, and a new generation of high-quality digital dispatch capability across the state.

“Members will also benefit from clearer radio dispatch coverage, which is currently available to Victoria Police, MFB, Ambulance Victoria and our brigades in metropolitan Melbourne,” he said.

“It will also reduce the need for group communications officers to support day-to-day dispatch communications activities. This role, however, will remain essential for incident management communications.

“But most importantly, this is a major upgrade of the state’s communications systems and will improve our service delivery to Victorian communities.” Currently CFA crews in rural areas must relay communications via a local group communications officer to give important information about the status of an incident and location of crews. This system was criticised following the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.

The rollout will begin in November this year and will be available to all regional brigades by mid next year. This will be followed by the training and eventual operational transition for all brigades involved which will be undertaken at a regional level.

“The rollout is part of our switchover to digitally enabled Tait radios which are currently operating on an analogue network, awaiting the introduction of this Regional Radio Dispatch Service (RRDS,” Ferguson said. “The new digital network will initially be dedicated to dispatching regional CFA brigades and will use newly assigned channels.”

Telstra’s Chris Pearce said the RRDS will be delivered by Telstra and supported by Motorola Solutions, combining the strengths and expertise of both companies in delivering public safety solutions. “Through our work with the CFA and Motorola, we are proud to be helping make regional Victoria a safer place,” said Pearce.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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