Council seeks reliable internet for CFA brigades

Firefighters have joined forces with Macedon Ranges council to call for better internet connections at all CFA stations before next bushfire season.

The council will write to state and federal emergency service ministers after a motion put by Cr Ian Ellis drew unanimous support from fellow councillors last Wednesday.

Cr Ellis said recent fires in the municipality had exposed a lack of basic communication capacity, including mobile phone and internet services, in many areas.

He said it was wrong that most CFA stations in one of Australia’s most fire-prone areas did not have stand-alone internet connections.

CFA Mountain Group spokesman Mike Dornau said any efforts to bring in better technology were welcome.

‘‘The way technology has developed over the years, things like the internet have become as big a part of firefighting as building tracks,’’ he said.

‘‘The Woodend brigade has spent a fair bit of money updating internet and computer systems, just to keep members up-to-date with what’s going on.

‘‘It’s all connected to our pagers, so by the time we get to the station, maps and all sorts of things have been printed out.

“The first crews just need to pick those up and they’re off and running.’’

Reliance on pagers

Mr Dornau said some brigades had better access to technology than others, and some firefighters were more savvy with technology.

“Other small country brigades are not and are still relying almost totally on pagers,’’ he said.

‘‘The CFA does a good job providing, but a lot of the time the individual brigades have got to beef up their own equipment.

‘‘Anything that governments can do to improve access and reliability is welcome.’’

Mr Dornau said last week’s fires near Ballarat showed how critical technology had become. ‘‘We were monitoring the fires all day because we could have been the next brigade to be called … better access to technology will benefit volunteers as well,’’ he said.

Cr Ellis said: ‘‘Some efforts have been made to improve the telephone operations, but provision of internet service to CFA stations has not been addressed.”

He said the introduction of universal and reliable access would have a positive impact on emergency responses.

‘‘Most CFA training for volunteers is conducted online,” Cr Ellis said.

“Communication connections can consist of phone and internet … weather updates are also more effectively accessed via the internet.’’