NSW State Emergency Service dials up BAI for digital radio upgrade

By Julian Bajkowski

Radio infrastructure services provider BAI has scored a significant deal with the New South Wales State Emergency Service (NSW SES) to project manage the responder’s communications equipment overhaul for the next five years as frontline workers upgrade from analogue to digital spectrum.

The program of works associated with the operational communications upgrade will cover 229 operational field units and usage by more than 10,000 volunteers and 300 staff members that routinely rely on radio communications during emergencies like natural disasters when mobile phone coverage is frequently rendered temporarily inoperable.

The project is part of a wider move by emergency services into a harmonized government radio band.

An ongoing communications challenge for state emergency service volunteers across Australia has been that different states often operate on different frequencies – however SES volunteers routinely travel interstate to render assistance and need to be able to tune into what is being used on the ground where they are working.

It is hoped that the upgrades and move to a digital platform will go some way to overcome interstate interoperability issues.

Assistant Commissioner for NSW SES, Andrew Edwards, told Government News that it made sense to upgrade radio systems given the switch to the harmonized government band.

Assistant Commissioner Edwards said that this included progressively replacing radio handsets. The NSW SES estimates that it has around 4400 radio terminals in its fleet which also includes radio sets in vehicles and in facilities.

Some of the benefits in moving to the new band and digital technology include less radio frequency interference, better voice quality and remote site monitoring.

The move to digital spectrum and equipment also offers the potential for the geo-location of handsets and volunteers and staff, a move that potentially offers substantial benefits in keeping its people on the ground accounted for and out of danger.

Assistant Commissioner Edwards said that the some digital handsets came with GPS chips and that the SES was looking at all opportunities to improve safety for its people on the ground.

For project manager BAI, the deal from the NSW SES follows the announcement in June that its subsidiary, Airwave, had won the operations and maintenance contract for the New South Wales Government Radio Network, of which the NSW SES is a user agency.

The project management arrangement with BAI will also see its dedicated resources co-located within the NSW SES.

While most Australians may not have heard of the radio communications specialist, the chances are they have either listened-in or watched its output given that BAI is responsible for transmission services for the ABC and SBS as well as having contracts to run both federal and state government networks in Australia.

“We’re very pleased to be working with the NSW SES on this project, and are looking forward to using our extensive experience to achieve the best outcome,” said BAI group chief executive Jim Hassell. 

“BAI has extensive experience in managing large-scale design, procurement and implementation projects, particularly in essential and emergency services, such as the Digital Restack Programme and delivering the P25 Digital Radio System for Ergon Energy,” Mr Hassell said.

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