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NSW Technology Response to Focus on Firefighter Safety

Image Credits: NSW Government, Press Release

The ‘connected firefighter’ package is a $57.4 million investment as part of the New South Wales (NSW) government’s response to the Independent Bushfire Inquiry following the Black Summer Bushfires of 2019/20. The package includes:

  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), or drones that provide images and data from incidents in real-time, assist firefighters with incident planning.
  • Cell on Wheels (CoWs), which are mobile modules that are equipped with communications technology and provide power for extended periods in remote parts of the state without coverage.
  • Upgrades to Fire and Rescue NSW Mobile Command Centres for communications between incident management teams and firefighters.
  • Vehicle as a Node (VaaNs), vehicles that have a built-in Wi-Fi hub to provide mobile 4G network in remote locations where satellite connection is limited.

The region’s Police and Emergency Services Minister said that the NSW Government is providing record funding towards initiatives that are bolstering the safety of the community. It is apparent is that the emergency services are entering a tech boom, one which rightly puts NSW ahead of the pack this bushfire season, he said. These assets will ensure NSW’s first responders are safe as they enter dangerous and volatile fire grounds to protect their communities.

A report from earlier this year noted that Emergency services and communities will be better prepared for disaster, with another record $1.9 billion budget in 2021-22 across the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS), Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW), and NSW State Emergency Service (NSW SES).

The Minister for Police and Emergency Services has confirmed a record investment of $930 million for FRNSW and $240 million for NSW SES reflected the Government’s continued focus on safeguarding lives, property and supporting emergency management personnel. The budget includes more than $75 million over four years for the Stay Safe and Keep Operational program across emergency services, which will support the communication requirements of the emergency services agencies in areas not serviced by the Government Radio Network.

Fire and Rescue NSW will benefit from a nearly $23 million investment over four years for the rollout of new firefighting personal protective clothing. Almost $12 million will be spent over two years for the completion of FRNSW fire stations at Marsden Park and Oran Park, including trucks and equipment for each station.

The funding also includes an additional $268 million to continue the implementation of the recommendations of the NSW Independent Bushfire Inquiry, building on more than $192 million already announced since the 2019-20 bushfire season.

The funding package includes:

  • More than $48 million for fleet replacement and vehicle safety retrofits for frontline firefighting agencies;
  • $16 million for additional NSW RFS crews for hazard reduction and mitigation works;
  • More than $34 million to accelerate the delivery of the strategic fire trails network;
  • More than $18 million over two years to enhance coordination between emergency services, helping to fast-track integrated call and dispatch at FRNSW;
  • More than $17 million over two years to operationalise two black hawk helicopters and to replace an existing NSW RFS helicopter;
  • $20 million over two years for NSW RFS to upgrade Fire Control Centres, Emergency Operations Centres, and Station/Neighbourhood Safe Places;
  • Nearly $7 million to enhance firefighter safety through fire ground tracking, training and accreditation of heavy plant machinery over four years; and
  • More than $5 million to acquire additional drones for firefighting operations by FRNSW.

The NSW RFS will benefit from a $686 million budget in 2021-22, which will ensure it has the resources required to provide a world-leading bushfire response capability. The Budget also includes almost $790 million for Resilience NSW to coordinate and oversee whole-of-government disaster management, recovery, and build resilience to disasters.

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