Australia — S-W Development Commission funding trials of new warning system
NANNUP shire will trial a new fire emergency warning system this summer, developed by Perth-based company Sentinel Alert.
The South West Development Commission has allocated $95,000 for testing the innovative system.
SWDC chief executive officer Don Punch said the system used a unique combination of satellite and wireless technologies to activate individual household alarms encoded with GPS. Once triggered, the alarms will sound and display relevant information on a screen, he said.The alarms will keep people informed during a fire emergency and potentially save lives.
About 100 receivers will be inst-alled at houses across Jalbarragup and Yallingup. These will be mostly residential but a number of businesses will take part too.
The trial will initially examine the engineering issues over the first few weeks, Mr Punch said. This will ensure the transmitter and receivers operate as expected and any dead spots can be addressed.
Then control of the system will be provided to the fire control officer at each shire (Busselton and Nannup) who will have control of the system and be responsible for sending warning messages in the event of a real bushfire.
The trial will run to the end of April. All equipment funded by the SWDC will be retained by the Shire of Nannup at the end of the trial.
The systems inventor, Yall-ingup-based electronic engineer Ray Datodi , said he was inspired to develop a better warning system after moving from Perth to Yallingup six and a half years ago.
In March 2009 there was a significant fire in Kangaroo Parade, just half a kilometre from our place.
We lost power but there was no warning. I went outside and saw water bombers and the flames were just 700 metres from our house.
They were spotting two to three kilometres ahead of the main fire front, Mr Datodi said.
The fire had started when a pole-top transformer failed and ignited the surrounding bush.
He designed a highly reliable early warning system using digital VHF radio, GPS and satellite technology to send audible alarms and sequential messages.
Sentinel Alert had been working with the SWDC to assess the war-ning system.
A small-scale proof-of-concept trial had taken place at Yallingup during March, Mr Punch said. That trial demonstrated the concept to be sound from a technology and engineering perspective and has cleared the way for a full operational trial involving local government, he said.
Mr Punch said Sentinel Alerts invention had been designed to work in areas without mobile phone coverage or which were experiencing loss of power.
Full trials will take place this summer at Jalbarragup, which has no mobile phone coverage, as well as Yallingup, which is located in a high-fire risk area, he said.
Mr Datodi said he and his company had worked on the system for 18 months. Sentinel Alert Pty Ltd as a new company has three directors, each of us being owners and CEOs of our own technology based companies, he said.
HOW IT WORKS
THE new fire warning systems digitally coded VHF radio-transmission, overcomes the problems of topography impervious to mobile phone operation, according to its inventor Ray Datodi.
It can alert residents in clearly defined areas of an impending fire hazard .
The system has a tower-mounted central transmitter with a radio transmission range of about 50km radius, which would cover most rural shires.
Communication between the fire command centre, away from the transmission tower, and the radio transmitter is via satellite links.
Each householder wishing to use the emergency warning service will install one or more alarms.
Portable units will allow people to leave the premises and be warned if an emergency arises near home.
Both the home and portable alarms will be activated if the roaming unit remains within 50km of the transmission tower.
The portable unit is equipped with dual signal processing, storing both the home address information as well as monitoring roaming locations. GPS technology and satellite networks have enabledthe design and development of a highly sophisticated and cost-effective, life saving, emergency bush fire warning system, Mr Datodi said.
FIRE CHIEFS HELPED
TWO Fire and Emergency Services Authority regional directors, Greg McKay and John Tillman, had been instrumental in establishing the warning standards used in the system ensuring message consistency with FESAs State Alerts protocol, inventor Ray Datodi said last week.
And over the past 18 months he had been fortunate in having on board a dedicated group of talented engineers who have been instrumental in assisting in the development of the technology to the sophisticated level of the system we are trialling this summer, he said.
Sentinel Alert Pty Ltd has been established to take the project to commercialisation to ensure the future availability of the public warning system and specifically the home alarms.
Mr Datodi said the developers thought shire councils should be involved in deploying Sentinel Alert.
He envisaged local government would supply the transmitters and satellite links and members of the community would buy and install their own home alarms.
For expediency, we have self- funded the development of the system, including the initial small trial commencing this month in Yallingup.
Thanks to the greatly appreciated support and assistance from the SWDC, we are now able to run a significantly broader based trial in Jalbarragup.