News : Fire Brigade Hoses Down Claims
April 16, 2012 -- Claims the closure of an emergency triple-0 call centre in Katoomba will impact the central west have been denied by Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW).
Set to close for good on May 31, 2012 the call centre currently receives emergency fire calls from across western NSW and the closure will result in the loss of local knowledge a union representative said.
Following the closure all emergency fire calls will be diverted to centres in Sydney or Newcastle.
Fire Brigade Employees’ Union (FBEU) country sub branch secretary Tim Anderson said the region will lose phone operators with more than 20 years’ experience of fires in western parts of the state.
"They know the station, the distances to cross streets ... they know the area and buildings," Mr Anderson.
"Local knowledge assists you to allocate resources adequately."
Mr Anderson said the FBEU is also concerned about a new phone system to be introduced once the Katoomba call centre closes next month.
"The operator is relying on the cloud [phone system] having all the correct information in it," he said.
"The more you rely on systems and remove the human element, you’re removing the checks and balancing from the system."
Mr Anderson said people in regional areas are familiar with many locations and can interpret people who are not providing adequate information for firefighters to respond to an incident rather than just rely on computer generated information.
The emergency services computer aided dispatch (ESCAD) system is computer operated and allows any phone operator across the state to access information according to FRNSW assistant commissioner Mark Brown.
"If a call goes to another call centre at the moment they don’t have that information at their fingertips," he said.
Assistant commissioner Brown said the Katoomba call centre only receives around four per cent of all emergency fire calls and the closure of the office will not affect response times for firefighters.
"It’s better to have local knowledge in the heads of people in the trucks."
Assistant commissioner Brown said the 17 call centre staff will be absorbed into other areas of FRNSW with some to return to active duties.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Published: Monday, April 16, 2012