NSW Rural Fire Service cuts travel costs by using video conferencing

Staff now receiving firefighting training via video link

A video conferencing deployment by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) in June 2014 has saved it thousands of dollars in transport allowances/accommodation as it no longer needs to send staff to headquarters in Lidcombe, Sydney for training.

NSW RFS employs 900 staff. During the bushfire season, its staff work alongside thousands of volunteers to put out fires.

“While video is predominately being used by staff of NSW RFS we do have video units in each district office across the state, allowing volunteers to be involved in video collaboration meetings. From a training perspective, video is typically used to train volunteers in firefighting techniques,” said NSW RFS IT manager Ashley Van Amstel.

Training conducted by video means staff and volunteers can spend more time responding to emergencies rather than travelling long distances for training.

An existing Polycom customer, NSW RFS selected the vendor’s RealPresence One video collaboration system because of its scalability, high availability and redundancy, said Van Amstel.

He added that video conferencing is being used in emergency situations to share information and collaborate on fire fighting and fire containment strategies.

“Given the size of NSW and the number of districts we have across the state, real-time communication and collaboration is imperative to ensure we are able to make faster decisions and be better prepared. Video is being used for both multiple parties and point to point video calls as well as to share content between offices,” Van Amstel said.

“For example, we are able to share fire maps in real time with districts across the state to help develop strategies to best fight fires; which way fires may be spreading and areas which need most attention.”

There are now plans to install the video conferencing service on smartphones used by NSW RFS staff during March 2015.

With video available on a range of devices, this will allow emergency workers to be more easily connected despite their location or time, he said.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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