CODE 2, VOL 32, NO 32 : 10 december 2018

Survey of UFUQ members a damning indictment of QFES GWN digital radio communication

Since the commencement of the very expensive Queensland emergency service radio network (the GWN), your union (and representatives of your union on various committees) have been working to get Fire and Rescue and the QFES bureaucracy to accept there are problems. 

As operational firefighters and communication officers, you are well aware that clear communications are the difference between life and death in many emergency situations. Unfortunately, neither Fire and Rescue nor the bureaucrats appear to be able to open their eyes to the reality that the communications system you are using may be putting you at risk every day.

The reports coming back to your union from senior Fire and Rescue management and the QFES bureaucrats are that the GWN works well, and their evidence is based in part on them saying that you aren’t reporting problems.

To obtain a realistic users view of the GWN, a survey was conducted of members using the network, asking questions about their opinions and experiences.

The responses contrast sharply with statements by those in Fire and Rescue who appear to have forgotten what operational firefighters need to safely perform their roles and also from those in the QFES bureaucracy who have never been an operational firefighter.

I provide a summary of your colleagues responses below (keep in mind, these are responses from UFUQ members like you who use the network every day in real situations).

A.
The UFUQ surveyed the approximately 1600 members working in the current GWN coverage. Of those, over 970 responded (over 500 within the first hour of receiving the questions).

Over 50% of the responses were from members in the Brisbane Region, with the remainder from the South East, North Coast and South West Regions.
Other than rank or region, there is no way your union can identify any of the respondents, your responses remain totally confidential.

B.
Of the over 970 responses, approximately 30% were Station Officers, over 60% were Firefighters and the remainder were Fire Communication Officers and there were a few Senior Officer responses.

C.
Over 90% of respondents had used the previous UHF analogue system prior to using the GWN digital system.

D.
Of those who had used the previous system, approximately 50% of respondents said the previous UHF analogue system was, in their opinion as a user, safer. Almost 30% said they were unsure which was safer.

E.
When asked about safety, over 55% of respondents also stated that in noisy environments, UHF analogue was more effective, and approximately 70% called for reinstatement of external appliance speakers and higher wattage radios during operations.

F.
When asked about which they considered more important for safety during operation, over 90% of respondents stated clear reliable communications were more important than the GWN safety functions.

G.
When asked about reliability of the GWN network, over 90% of respondents stated they had personally experienced failures of the GWN network during operations.

Of those 90%, approximately 50% stated they had attempted to report the GWN failure.

Over 45% of respondents stated that reporting processes was difficult to use and over 35% stated they were unsure how to report an issue specifically relating to GWN failure.

CONCLUSION:

I consider these survey results to be valid based upon the number of responses.

I also consider them to be fairly damning of both the Fire and Rescue and bureaucratic attitude to how GWN is performing, with our members being told time and time again that the position of Fire and Rescue is that all is well.

Clearly, all is not well and some tough conversations and decisions have to be made.

I will present the survey results to the Commissioner in the near future and I will keep you informed of the matter as it continues to progress.

John Oliver - General Secretary

Authorised by John Oliver General Secretary 
United Firefighters' Union of Australia, Union of Employees QLD