New Cell on Wheels units to boost emergency communications this summer

Published: 15 Dec 2020

Released by: Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government, Minister for Customer Service

The NSW Government will deliver eight new Cell on Wheels (CoW) units to boost emergency communications capabilities this summer.

CoWs are portable Public Safety Network (PSN) sites that provide temporary network coverage during critical incidents and emergencies to areas needing extra network coverage or when existing towers suffer damage.

Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said the CoWs are vital assets that can save lives during emergencies.

“In an emergency every second counts, and it is paramount emergency services on the ground and in the air can communicate to coordinate operations in a crisis,” Mr Dominello said.

“This temporary communications infrastructure will ensure continuity of coverage over a radius of approximately 15 kilometres which is vital to ensuring the PSN remains operational for frontline responders.

“We plan on delivering another 14 CoWs in 2021, and this increased fleet will ensure our first responders can continue to use the PSN when they need it most.”

Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said Cell on Wheels units are one of many tools our emergency services use to keep our communities safe.

“In the past year, NSW has faced unprecedented challenges including fires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic – through it all our frontline workers have proven how crucial their communication is to a quick response,” Mr Elliott said.

“This announcement is a further step to getting our emergency services ready for a La Niña event and the possibility of grass and bush fires, and will complement record budgets across the agencies.”

Commissioner of Resilience NSW Shane Fitzsimmons said such initiatives ensure communities and emergency services are better prepared for and protected during disasters.

“CoWs were deployed on 36 occasions across eight NSW regions where network infrastructure had been lost or damaged last bushfire season, which ensured

emergency services could continue to communicate.

“CoWs can be deployed across the state to deliver backup telecommunications and are particularly useful when disasters occur in isolated communities. The additional CoWs announced today are a welcome addition,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

The new fleet is funded by the Critical Communications Enhancement Program, which is expanding and enhancing the coverage of the PSN across NSW. The program will deliver PSN coverage for 98 per cent of the state’s population.

This is part of a $600 million commitment to communications infrastructure in NSW – the largest investment of its type in two decades.

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