The Fire Service is two months away from going live with a new communications system it will share with the Police.
In June and July, fire service communications staff will move into premises with police communications workers and will start using a new NT-based Intergraph system — the same platform used by the police for its new communications system CARD (communications and resource deployment).
The move is part of SITE (shared information and technology environment), a $25 million five-year project under which the Fire Service will also share the Police land mobile radio network, upgrade its radio equipment for the 2000 fire appliances in the country and purchase new incident ground radios, a new logging system and a paging system.
Northern Communications Centre mana--ger Colin Ross says the police network has better clarity and coverage but another reason for the move is that the government wants to sell the frequencies the Fire Service network uses to FM commercial radio. The current network also suffers from interference from Aus--
t--ralian commercial radio stations.
Using the Police network will also save money, says Ross. It costs the Fire Service $1.5 million to $2 million a year to monitor the current radio network, whereas the Police system only costs $300,000 to $400,000 a year. The fire service will start moving to the new radio network in August.
The sharing of systems is the outcome of the 1995 Emergency Services Review which recommended that emergency services should integrate their communications centres.
In 1996 the Police and Fire Service signed an agreement to share information and technology.
Currently the Fire Service has six communications centres taking emergency calls and dispatching services in Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
"Two of them are operating with some very outmoded equipment," says Ross. "They have generation-one CAD [computer aided dispatch] technology which is about nine years old. The other centres are using CAD3 which is doing the job at the moment but is not sustainable in the long term."
Major features of the new system are a GUI interface and the inclusion of maps.
Three of the communications centres will be closed, leaving northern Auckland, central Wellington and southern Christ-church. Staff numbers will be cut from 90 to 70. Ross says the $25 million budget includes redundancy pay.
"What the fire fighters are going through now, we went through last year," he says. "Everyone had to reapply for their jobs."