Next season, LSV will be using a new radio system that integrates our communications with other emergency services agencies. It will revolutionise the way we communicate and has been seven years in the making.
“The changes will benefit every single club and service, including lifeguards and volunteers from the jet skis, to the helicopters, as well as RIBs, ATVs, 4WDs and clubhouses,” says LSV operations manager Greg Scott. “From Mildura and across the coast, the benefits will be phenomenal.”
The project began when the Australian Communications and Media Authority performed a review of the way radio spectrum were used and decided they would repurpose where LSV’s current radios were placed in the spectrum.
This decision affected a number of other agencies, including the SES and Corrections Victoria. So, in a joint project with these agencies, and later Victoria Police, LSV teamed up with Emergency Management Victoria to transition to Regional Mobile Radio (RMR) as part of the Government Radio Network (GRN).
Not only does the move consolidate resources for these agencies into one network, ensuring greater coverage and reliability than independent communication systems, it also allows effective intercommunication among these agencies for coordination of large emergencies and wide-scale operations. It also removes some of the burden on LSV in terms of maintenance.
“In the past, LSV owned and operated its own radio network, which meant we had to resolve outages at our expense,” says Mr Scott. “Now the network is operated and managed by Telstra, any outage is resolved by them, and they provide us with very good network monitoring tools.”
As a managed device service, clubs and lifesaving services can contact the service desk for any issues – such as when they need to get a radio repaired if a battery stops holding charge or if it’s contaminated from body fluid following an incident. Previously, clubs had to get grants to buy radios themselves and had to replace and maintain them.
The Victorian Government is funding the annual costs for the allocated radios. If clubs want more than their allocation they will need to access grants for the additional requirements.
SUPERIOR AUDIO QUALITY AND REACH
The new radio system is digital rather than analogue, so has far better audio quality and will reach into coastal locations LSV radio has never before been able to reach.
“The new network is Public Safety Grade, which is above Consumer and Business grades,” explains Mr Scott. “It has a very high level of redundancy and means every club will have radio coverage. Previously, because of coastal shadowing, some areas and clubs have never had reception.”
The active noise reduction technology of this system was developed for Formula One cars, and works well for LSV’s needs, which often include loud noise interference such as being out on an IRB, in windy environments or next to a helicopter.
“A lifesaver in an IRB or a Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter crew member could call back to LSV Comms and the person at the other end wouldn’t hear the helicopter or on-water noise interference,” says Mr Scott. “These radios have far better volume than any other radio currently in operation with us today.”
LOCATION-ENABLED, TRACKABLE AND MORE…
The new radios are far more durable than the ones they’re replacing and have blue tooth capability, smart batteries and a full colour screen. Working more like a mobile phone, they also have voice recording functions for training purposes and in the event of an incident, as well as GPS-tracking and a duress button.
“A lifesaver can hit the duress button if they find themselves in distress and the radio will transmit their location and alert LSV Comms that they are in trouble,” says Mr Scott. “They also have ‘talk groups’ for different groups, such as event lifeguards and aquatic sports, who will have access to the network for the first time ever.”
The new consoles are the same type used in the Triple Zero call centres and the fact LSV is now on the same system as SES, Victoria Police and other agencies equates to more secure and reliable communications for better emergency response. LSV can now communicate directly with these agencies for the first time on the same network.
“Being an equal partner in the project throughout the process has meant the other agencies now have a very good insight into what LSV does and how we work,” says Mr Scott. “This is because we had to unpack our business operations model for each of our services and for each agency, so when we put them all together on the same network it’s going to work.”
The project is a significant investment by the Victorian Government in LSV and shows its confidence in LSV’s ability to contribute as a public safety agency. The installation of the new radio system is expected to start with a pilot next month.