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ESA firelink comms system withdrawn

By Thumper 13 July 2007 27

[ED (Ntp) – Ari has also submitted a post related to this with links to ABC and CT coverage. His post can be seen by hitting the “more” tag or going into the comments.]

The ESA have admitted making a mistake (ESA Media release here)in buying and implementing the Firelink communications system.

Commissioner Gregor Manson said “The evaluations on the Firelink project indicated that the program is unsuitable for the ESA’s ongoing operations,”

He also added, “I regret to tell the ACT community that $4.5 million was spent on this program which may have instead been used to purchase vital equipment for our volunteers and full time emergency services professionals.

Corbell scraps a 60-Grassby ESA stuff-up – Post submitted by Ari.

The same ESA chiefs who helped bring us the Canberra fires of 2003 also introduced a whiz-bang new communication system costing ACT taxpayers $4.5 million.

Now Emergency Services Minister Simon Corbell (who took over ESA control after the fires) has been forced to scrap it as it’s way too complex for the ACT.

Using the now generally accepted measure for ACT Govt waste, I calculate this stuff-up cost us about 60 Grassbys.

Here’s a quote from the current ESA chief in the ABC’s online coverage.

ESA Commissioner Gregor Manson says the Firelink system is just too sophisticated for the ACT’s needs.

“We’ve really bought a sledgehammer to peel peanuts,” he said.

Much more from the Canberra Times here.

What’s Your opinion?

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27 Responses to
ESA firelink comms system withdrawn
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bugmenot 1:18 pm 27 Jul 07

Strange… the vendors site says Firelink (MAC2?) is capable of communicating with other units. See:

The MMU offers an operator two-way digital communications between assets and a HQ [snip]

Maybe the ACT system was missing the feature with which to contact other units? Aside from being able to radio comcen normally, were those using it meant to write SMS messages to comcen using the PSP-style controller?

From the hyperlink, I see there’s a small image of some white box & dashboard thing – kind of like the kit stuck in taxis.

Maelinar 8:02 am 26 Jul 07

bugmenot, to answer your question, I’m not aware if the unit could contact other units as message traffic was bidirectional between your unit and comcen.

As such, I believe it was specified on many occasions that a complex mesh network was required instead of a star or tree network.

The problem with a heirachial networks will always be that if you cannot contact your ‘parent’, your network will fail.

Try telling that to somebody with only military communications experience though, and they’ll look at you dumbfounded, because they can’t comprehend not having a superior/subordinate relationship.

bugmenot 5:35 pm 25 Jul 07

Interesting. This post could be partially barking up the wrong tree as I don’t know a lot about TRN or details of the comms systems overhaul. But it strikes me as FireLink is wrong solution for some of the technical problems with bushfire fighting. AFAIK, one of the big problems identified from the 2003 fires was that the radio communications system failed – getting radio communications around was a major headache/not possible. So, for what its worth, the vendor has produced a vehicle tracking system with messaging capability. As far as I see it, a vehicle tracking system isn’t a solution for fixing radio communications. Looks like someone had bought a a tracking system when the firies really wanted better comms. Or am I wrong here?

Was it possible to send messages from the trucks with firelink? It seems unlikely given that the controller appears only to have a few buttons – much less a keyboard. Trying to send an SMS style message during a fire and with gloves on would be rather futile…

Ingeegoodbee 11:54 am 25 Jul 07

Rawhide Kid might be onto somthing – I have had a fair bit of experience with a system adopted by BHP Billiton for vehicles used in South Australian mining operations (and probably elsewhere). A device fitted to each vehicle provides real time information on the vehicles exact location, speed, and route – apparently whoever manages the system can tell where every vehicle is at any time.

Maelinar 9:08 am 25 Jul 07

I don’t regard myself as ill informed.

I have had to defend myself from criticism for using the product inadequately. In my response, I added in my radiotelecommunications qualifications as well, surprisingly, I didn’t ever hear anything back, given I put the onus of blame squarely on Comcen, and could back it up.

I’m also aware that Thumper and Rawhide Kid have also used Firestink in an ‘able to touch the item’ capacity.

So Mr Nice, have you ever used Firestink, or are you the ill informed one ?

P.S. it did have a GPS installed for whoever asked the question. The GPS hardly ever worked, you guessed it, making the unit beep in error.

And yes, there were more serious problems with the unit, as I mentioned in my post, the list was not exhaustive. I opted for a selection of practical day to day errors, over affecting operational ability errors.

As to who is to blame, I’d suggest pointing a finger at the vacant desk of where the analyst should have sat who defined the operational requirements of the RFS/SES etc. I mention vacant desk because I’m not aware if any analysis actually happened by a person actually qualified in analysis, and therefore, knowing what they were doing.

Thumper 7:57 am 25 Jul 07

Mr Nice,

The reason the RFS and SES didn’t want it was simply because it did not work as it was supposed to and if anything added to the confusion.

Mr Nice 10:06 pm 24 Jul 07

What a load of shit has been written by the ill informed.

The real reason it was canned is because the RFS don’t want it – or anything else that can track them. To parphrase an email I’ve seen from a senior RFS person – “the RFS does not want any type of tacking system fitted to our vehicles”

Funny now the’ve gone back to managing people with a map on a bonnet of a car, that agian step forward. AIIMS, span of contol, all bulshit and lipservice.

I reckon we should of accepted there resignations and looked for some new, younger members.

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