The communications (comms) section @ Northshore consists of the section leader and assistant communications officer(s).
FESA SES comms courses only cover radio based comms, and our main purpose is to support use of these radios within the unit. That said, and as is often the case in the community and business nowadays, comms within the SES is carried out using:
b) electronic (digital) communications e.g. email.
The comms section works closely with the computer or IT section.
SES units, not only in the comms section but in all areas generally, can often obtain great benefit from outside sources. The best example of this is occupations and hobbies of our volunteers - outside experiences and knowledge. In the particular case of communications, we often see people who work with radio's as a hobby, or who work in the communications or IT field. However this is by no means a pre-requisite to joining the comms section.
The primary role of the comms officers is to:
1. Maintain the radio equipment,
2. Establish & maintain procedures to keep the radio equipment in constant good order, following established FESA SES instructions where available.
3. Assist other unit members in use of the equipment and FESA SES radio procedures. This may cause them to be called out to assist in resolving an issue during a unit operation.
4. Work with FESA comms staff as necessary when faults arise.
5. Should the operational need arise; they also may liaise with the FESA SES Comms Support Unit (CSU).
Communications within the SES broadly involves the use of the following equipment:
a). UHF radios
c). Fax machines,
d). Mobile phones,
e). Computers (and associated communications and other peripheral equipment),
f). HF (long distance) radios,
g). Satellite telephones.
General Training (all members):
All SES personnel are required to know how to use a radio, and the basic use of these form part of the induction package. A full radio comms course is run from time to time, which introduces members to the standard equipment, correct use and radio procedures, protocol, callsigns, phonetic alphabet and the like.
Specialist Training (for elected Communications Officer):
A field equipment course covers comms planning (e.g. working out where to site equipment when working on a search in the hills around Perth so that all search teams have an effective communication link with search base). Siting of such equipment brings into play for example various SES skills: map reading, where necessary use of generators, knowing the capability of the equipment available for use. The course also covers basic maintenance of equipment and how to set up gear such as portable repeaters and telescopic masts to carry antennae.
Comms at unit level is not a highly technical role - radios are not repaired by the individual SES members, as there is a comms section within FESA that looks after the equipment, and if required sends it to the appropriate service centre.
Role of the comms section within Northshore:
1. Ensure all radios (vehicle fitted, hand held, transportable and base station units) are in working order. This includes ensuring that all radio batteries are serviceable and hold a useful charge (they don't last forever!). If it isn't right it needs to be fixed. Radios are probably not relied upon as much as in the past, but when they are used they need to work.
2. Deal with the telephones (fixed, mobiles) and all equipment plugged into the telephone line such as faxes & various types of modems. At a minimum, all equipment should be checked to ensure that it is in working order - and repaired as soon as possible where problems exist.
3. Provide on call support to assist the administration, training, operations and rescue sections with resolving any comms issues that arise.
4. Be involved in regular training, participating in regional unit comms workshops, and remain knowledgeable with current technologies.
5. Provide Computer, internal network (LAN), data projector and Internet support to the unit (including the Training Section).
If a problem cannot be solved by the comms section or by other unit members, then they work with various FESA sections as well as external suppliers to have the issue resolved.
May also become involved with:
1. Assisting in or training (depending on whether comms staff are accredited trainers) of other staff, including continual practice in using the equipment, and training in new gear as it comes into service.
2. Setting up or organising extra equipment such as antennae that can be used to enhance reception in difficult terrain
3. Providing a comms section member for a team during a callout.