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High tech ’emergency war room’ truck sat unused in a shed during the recent bushfire crisis

Neil Mitchell
Article image for High tech ’emergency war room’ truck sat unused in a shed during the recent bushfire crisis

A specially designed high tech truck, designed and launched after Black Saturday to fix communication holes and co-ordinate emergency management, was not deployed during the recent bushfires.

The $5 million Emergency Services Integrated Communication vehicle has been used several times, including during the Hazelwood fires in Morwell.

However, this summer the truck, which is privately owned but was co-funded by the state government, has been sitting unused in a shed at Tullamarine.

The truck has been described as “one of the most technologically advanced emergency management vehicles available” and could have generated power for fire-stricken communities, provided mobile phone and internet coverage and integrate emergency services operations.

Neil Mitchell said the vehicle is “a bit like an emergency war room”.

3AW Mornings contacted former Victorian Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley, who was in the role when the truck was brought in to use, about its two year dormancy.

He said he “doesn’t know why” the truck wasn’t used.

“You can park it in a community, you can set up the mobile phone network that may have already fallen over and it will go via satellite to reconnect the mobile phone network back up, and it gives about 150km coverage,” he told Neil Mitchell.

“It’s still in Victoria … It could operate. It was news to me to know that it hadn’t been used.

“I know it has still got the current best technology on it, so it matches whatever the big telcos have got.

“It’s actually probably even smarter than some of those.”

Press PLAY below for the full interview with Craig Lapsley

Des Bahr from the National Safety Agency Research Centre, which designed and owns the state of the art vehicle, confirmed the truck has been out of action for two years.

“Due to the number of movements within state government, and particularly Emergency Management Victoria, who we were in partnership with over this program … I’m not sure who are really aware of its capabilities,” he said.

“As a result of that we have brought its capability to their attention.”

Mr Bahr said the state government is currently considering how the vehicle can be of use.

The office of Minister for Emergency Services, Lisa Neville, said the current Victorian Fire Services Commissioner has told the government the special vehicle is no longer required.

Press PLAY below for more.

Press PLAY below to see more of what the truck can do.

Image: National Safety Agency

Neil Mitchell