Radio over IP network saves surf lifesavers

Omnitronics Pty Ltd
Thursday, 21 June, 2012

Saving thousands of lives every year, surf lifesaving is an important force in public safety. Quick response times and reliable radio networks are just as important to lifesavers as they are for other public safety organisations.

With some of the busiest beaches in Australia like Bondi and Manly, Surf Life Saving NSW recognised this need and commissioned Omnitronics and Karera Communications to implement a reliable and flexible solution.

Covering such a large area of over 2000 km of coastline and 132 beaches, SLS NSW faced a number of challenges. These challenges were overcome by connecting each of the repeater sites by RoIP.

Bruce Forward, manager of Oceania and International sales at Omnitronics, stated that “over the past few years, Omnitronics has received numerous enquiries from surf lifesaving organisations throughout Australia and New Zealand wishing to find out more about how radio over IP (RoIP) technology could be used to improve their radio communications services”.

An IPR gateway was placed at each site converting the SLS’s existing analog radio signals to digital. By using IPR devices, calls are able to be distributed across the network and to multiple dispatch locations using Omnitronics’ conferencing mode.

John Florenca, CEO of Omnitronics, commented on how the company has been focusing on just this kind of application. “Over the past few years, we have been developing our capability and honing our skills of delivering RoIP solutions that meet the changing needs of two-way radio users. We have now reached a point where we can help deliver a distributed radio management architecture (over IP), reliably and in a cost-effective manner.”

In the case of SLS NSW, a combination of centralised and localised support was required. This ensures that individual lifesavers have the backup of not only their local team members but also team members right across the region, thereby increasing safety and improving response times.

To achieve this, the DX-64 radio dispatch management system was selected as the hub of this network, being placed at the centralised communications centre. From here, dispatch operators are able to monitor and coordinate the activities across the state. Regional Surfcom communication centres were then set up with desk-mount IP consoles to simultaneously connect to the same network.

Chris McCaskie of SLS NSW states: “Surf Life Saving NSW has seen significant operational benefits from the implementation of this system. Centralised control and command of statewide communications has enabled uniformity and streamlining of our emergency response system.”

The rapid recall feature of the system has proved to be a valuable addition to the network. Lifesavers need to very quickly convey their location and type of emergency to the dispatch centre so they can continue to perform emergency first aid. Operators may miss vital details due to the hurried nature of the call.

By using rapid recall, all voice calls are automatically recorded and can be replayed as many times as required at the press of a button. This has enabled operators to quickly call in emergency services and local services without requiring the lifesavers to repeat information and distracting them from their main task - saving a life.

With Phase 1 of the rollout complete, SLS NSW is looking to expand its network to cover more beaches. Due to the flexibility of a RoIP infrastructure, this will be done by simply connecting additional IPR gateways and regional surfcoms to the existing network.

As for the future, Bruce Forward states: “Digital radio technology is now also offering further advantages to surf lifesaving organisations and Omnitronics’ digital radio capable dispatch console solutions will soon be used at many beaches throughout Australia and New Zealand.”

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