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New South Wales Invests in Tech Upgrades for Rescuers

The NSW Government is investing AU$ 4.7 million to provide the Volunteer Rescue Association of NSW (VRA) with uninterrupted communication coverage throughout the state. The NSW Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery noted that the funding injection will overhaul the VRA’s radio network to bring it into line with the other emergency services. She added that this significant funding increase will provide VRA volunteers with a consistent and dependable radio network that is compatible with other agencies, ensuring their ability to communicate anywhere in the state of NSW.

The VRA is the only agency in the state that is solely dedicated to rescue-operations and the volunteers and staff have done an exceptional job, particularly over the past 12 months by supporting flood operations, she noted.

The independent Flood Inquiry has emphasised ways to improve emergency response and the NSW Government will continue to provide first responders with the necessary resources to keep regional, rural and remote communities safe and strong. The funding will provide for 421 new radios and equip 100 vehicles with Vehicle as a Node technology.

The Vehicle as a Node capability integrates radio, mobile phone and satellite networks to provide a communication system that is resistant to ‘blackspots’, which often occur when natural disasters impact infrastructure.

The Acting Commissioner of the VRA said the upgrade will also give volunteers access to a duress button that is centrally monitored. He noted that with just the push of a button, members can request urgent assistance if they are in danger, enabling an immediate response. Being able to send and receive life-saving communications in all conditions is vital to the safety of everyone, including our 1,218 members.

Meanwhile, according to another press release, the Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience said new Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensors will help firefighters to better manage fuel loads by mapping bushland density.

The advanced technology will give firefighters a better understanding of the bush, which will enable them to more effectively protect properties during a fire and target areas with higher fuel loads during a hazard reduction operation. She added that having lasers fitted to drones in Fire and Rescue NSW’s AU$5.4 million fleet will provide firefighters with enhanced capability to keep communities safer and stronger throughout this period of increased fire danger.

The LiDAR sensors create accurate, 3D point data that is integrated with colourised high-resolution imagery. By using laser imagery collected before and after a hazard reduction operation, firefighters will be able to precisely determine how much bushland has been treated.

The FRNSW Deputy Commissioner stated that LiDAR sensors can also be used during a flood recovery operation, helping clean-up crews target their efforts. She noted that LiDAR sensors use eye-safe lasers to measure the volume of flood debris and give FRNSW a better visual of the product so we can determine what it is. That information takes a lot of the guesswork out of flood recovery operations, leading to a faster and more efficient clean-up, she noted.

This technology, which can function in any lighting conditions, day or night, is a game-changer for Fire and Rescue NSW and significantly enhances their aerial firefighting capabilities.

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