Emergency services tackling deadly bushfires in the Esperance region will have better mobile coverage, after 30 antenna boosters are released to brigades over the next two to three months.
The boosters, providing better and stronger telephone signal, will be fitted to fire trucks from as earlier as November, just in time for the looming bushfire season.
Funded through WA Farmers Esperance Fire Appeal, the implementing the boosters across the region has been a long-running project.
Telecommunications between emergency services was identified as an area needing urgent improvement, during the 2015 Esperance bushfires.
The technology is tipped to allow greater flexibility for crews and enhance telecommunication between emergency services.
WA Farmers president Tony York and local farmer Mic Fels have trialled the boosters at their broad-ache cropping properties for the last six months.
Speaking at Telstra’s local black spot conference last Tuesday, the veteran volunteer bush fire brigade chief said he was happy to announce the project had finally come to fruition.
Mr York said the boosters would be vital to ensuring the community was “better prepared for any fires in the future”.
“These will help boost a signal in a black spot, where there’s no signal,” Mr York said.
The Tammin farmer said the boosters would be a great benefit for the agricultural industry, especially given the innovative advances to farming operations in recent times.
He said while the boosters would help during bushfires, they wouldn’t entirely ease peoples concerns ahead of the season.
“This is just to help the emergency services… just to have a better and stronger telephone signal,” Mr York said.
“It’s... going to help a little bit. It’s not going to suddenly mean we can all rest ease and be safe.
“The big key issues about fire mitigation are still there to be debated and pursued by everybody that’s involved in bush fires and managing fires, including WA Farmers when we’re advocating the new state government.
“I’ve used it on my farm, for the last six months. We had about a third of our farm in Tammin that couldn’t rely on a telephone signal, now we can by using that booster.
“It’s helping fill in all of those gaps... but I know driving around the state that it’s still not going to have 100 per cent reliability.
“It’s a booster, that’s all it is. At least we’re getting more coverage… by using it rather than not using it.”
He said it was the same technology as an in-house booster “just you can boost your phone signal in your car”.
Mr York said Telstra charged a warehouse price for each booster.
He said the agricultural lobby group hoped a modest fee would encourage local farmers to install them out of their own pockets.
He said that interest had already been voiced locally.
“We’re not expecting it to cost us a lot to have them installed, because there’s still some support within the community,” he said.
“There might be a small fee but it’ll be modest.”
Currently only 12 boosters have been delivered, with a further 18 to be produced and sent to Western Australia.
Currently there’s a shortage of stock because they’re coming from the United Kingdom.
“Because it’s a new product they’e just ramping in deliveries… they’re only just making it avaible to us,” He said.
He thanked Marg Agnew and Mic Fels for driving the initiative locally.