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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 27 September 2007) . . Page.. 2803 ..

Emergency services—communications systems

Ministerial statement

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services): I seek leave to make a ministerial statement concerning an update on the implementation of alternative communications systems for fire vehicle locations for the 2007-08 bushfire season.

Leave granted.

MR CORBELL: On 22 August this year, during a debate in the Assembly relating to emergency services mobile data communications systems, I undertook to provide an update on the implementation of alternative communications systems for vehicle location prior to the commencement of the 2007-08 bushfire season. This is that statement.

Following the withdrawal of FireLink, the Emergency Services Agency has established a working group to implement changes and to reconfigure procedures to ensure that a vehicle location system is in place that can operate effectively during the upcoming bushfire season.

As stated during the Assembly debate on 22 August this year, it is important to stress that the ESA is not without high-quality voice communications infrastructure for our emergency services. The trunk radio network is performing well and provides high-quality digital radio coverage across the urban, and a large part of the non-urban, area of the ACT. The TRN coverage will improve across non-urban areas of the ACT, once additional work is completed, through a number of towers in the southern areas of the ACT. The Mount Tennant radio site is completed and will be powered up by the end of October, using a temporary generator until underground mains power is connected, which is expected early in the new year.

In regard to Mount Clear, which is a joint New South Wales-ACT site, New South Wales has advised that site works are underway and a site completion date is expected to be advised by the New South Wales Department of Commerce in mid-October. Additionally, remote radio relays have been updated to cover mountain areas of the ACT, which has further improved voice communications.

For this fire season, for the purposes of vehicle location, the ESA will use the existing computer-aided dispatch system, or CAD, to manually enter the location of RFS and SES vehicles. We will also use manual tracking of those vehicles through mapping to identify the location of those vehicles. This system obviously works well in many jurisdictions, it works well for individual incidents and can work for the ACT for this season. It is not, however, the long-term solution. The long-term solution is the potential and permanent use of CAD, and that is being developed at this time.

The public can have every confidence that the ESA is well prepared for the upcoming bushfire season, that the communications systems are effective and that upcoming improvements will continue to provide our emergency services workers and volunteers with communications systems that are suitable for their needs.

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