Baptism of fire for critical communications
By Hamish Duff, President, ARCIA
Thursday, 12 March, 2020
As I write this the rain is pouring down across much of eastern Australia. I have decided I will never complain about too much rain ever again. The unprecedented fire activity across Australia over summer has affected so many people, and the scale of the disaster will be felt for years. Of course the response from Australians has been fantastic, and as we turn to rebuilding, community spirit will hopefully ensure that people in affected areas get the support they need.
I would like to congratulate all the people in our industry, members and future members, for the massive effort to keep communication systems running, supply temporary sites and make urgent repairs, and for their endless support on the ground. There has been extensive damage to communications sites but as always the communications industry has risen to the challenge. Well done to everyone involved, including all the government agencies and support people who are invisible to the general public but are ever present. Ours is an industry that always works away quietly in the background but always makes things happen with little fuss.
Everyone in our industry understands that critical communication has an essential role to play and events such as the bushfires demonstrate for all to see just how important it is. I could not help thinking as video emerged of NSW Fire & Rescue trucks driving through a flame-over and putting up blankets to protect the crew, just how vital communications are. During the worst of the fires many radio sites and networks were destroyed, and crews were left with simplex communications — a vital lifeline on the fire ground.
So there will be many lessons learned from this event. I hope that key agencies and governments can use the experience to invest in critical communications technologies. There is enormous industry knowledge and experience that can be brought to the table, so I also hope that everyone in the industry can contribute to the critical communications environment.
I am also reminded that after all the discussions and effort around new LTE technology, it is still not really appropriate for many situations. Of course, getting data and situational awareness to public safety users is important; however, under firestorm conditions, PTT voice is king. If we could estimate the total number of PTTs on fire grounds, on networks, on simplex, I think the number would be staggering, and any one of those calls could have been lifesaving.
ARCIA has started planning for 2020 and we will have many events and activities in which you can participate. Make sure you look at the refreshed web page, www.arcia.org.au, for up-to-date information. At our committee planning days in February we had 30 industry representatives present, ranging from committee members through our promotional partners to other industry organisations, including our friends from across the Tasman, the Radio Frequency Users Association of New Zealand. A very broad range of topics was covered; as well as giving us an opportunity to discuss many industry opportunities and concerns, we were able to set ourselves some relevant action points for the coming year.
In particular, ARCIA will continue to offer training days on industry relevant topics. More than 200 people have attended these small courses over the last 18 months. Our aim is to expand, improve and deliver more content for the benefit of industry. If you have any content that you think will be helpful for your business, employees or contractors, please reach out to the committee and let us know. There are many topics to cover and your input will help us to set the priorities for the future.
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