Friday, June 21, 2024

New technology to fill comms black spots

New state-of-the-art technology to help first responders overcome dangerous communications black spots during emergencies was unveiled in Sydney today.

The mobile Wi-Fi equipment, which has been installed in more than 1,300 Fire and Rescue NSW and NSW State Emergency Service (SES) vehicles, will ensure 4G or satellite communication access during incident responses.

The cutting-edge, highly resilient communications technology will enable firefighters and NSW SES members to continue using radios, mobile phones and other handheld devices anywhere and at any time, through new equipment attached to their vehicles.

The ‘vehicle as a node’ systems will allow crews to connect to satellites when there is no land-based 4G or radio connectivity. This will mean that if the communications infrastructure is damaged in a disaster, they will still be able to stay in contact.

“I’ve visited many communities impacted by natural disasters and know we must be doing everything we can to improve our emergency response,” said Premier, Chris Minns.

“Whether it’s telling people to evacuate, getting latest advice and emergency communications through to communities who may be cut off – this new equipment is crucial to that work.

“That is why we are providing our first responders with technology they can rely on to overcome connectivity challenges.

“These new systems are an important step forward in adapting our response to disasters and emergencies and supporting our combat agencies to provide help faster, where and when it’s needed.”

Emergency Services Minister, Jihad Dib said work would now commence on enabling Fire and Rescue NSW vehicles to be used as ‘mobile Wi-Fi hubs’, allowing for mobile phone and live video streaming connectivity for first responders.

Video streaming allows emergency services to share live footage from the incident, heightening situational awareness for ground crews.

The technology is now standardised for any new vehicle acquired by Fire and Rescue NSW and NSW SES across the state.

“Communications black spots have long been a challenge for first response agencies and can seriously hamper efforts to respond in emergencies and disasters,” said Minister Dib.

“Since March, more than 400 SES vehicles have installed these new systems, and we have now completed the fit-out to more than 900 Fire and Rescue NSW vehicles.

“This state-of-the-art technology provides better support and protection for our frontline firefighters and SES crews as they carry out their mission to safeguard the community.”

Fire and Rescue NSW Deputy Commissioner – Strategic Capability, Megan Stiffler said the technology rollout had taken around 12 months to complete.

“This is the first big step in bringing the hub’s various functions online,” she said.

“The hub basically turns each firetruck into a modern communications node and also introduces the latest AVL technology that allows Fire and Rescue NSW to deploy the closest firetruck to an emergency.”

NSW SES Commissioner, Carlene York APM said the upgrade would be a great boost in regional areas where coverage is limited.

“When the mobile broadband connection or public safety network has an outage, our vehicles can now switch to satellite connectivity with ease to keep members in the field in communication with each other and with the State Operations Centre,” she said.

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