Country Fire Service dispatch

Country Fire Service dispatch

This article details the dispatch processes of the South Australian Country Fire Service (CFS).

The Country Fire Service has several ways of dispatching brigades to emergencies, however in almost all, pagers are used to alert volunteers to the incident. People wanting to report an incident should ring the national emergency number 000 (or 112 from a mobile phone) and ask for 'fire'. Their call will be taken by trained operators at the Adelaide Fire communications centre. Brigades can also be activated by notifying a brigade in person, or by ringing the local brigade's phone (if it is manned). If a caller rings the local fire brigade's emergency number, they will be put through to the ALERTS system. Using the 000 emergency number is recommended.

Call receipt

When a call is received into the ALERTS system, a conference call is set up, and the ALERTS system will call all local brigade personnel registered to receive ALERTS calls (usually Captain and officers but can be anyone in the brigade or group level), including Adelaide Fire (Fire Services Call, Receipt and Dispatch Centre) in Wakefield Street, Adelaide, so an ALERTS call will always be answered. When the call is answered, a PIN is required to be entered to join the conference which includes the caller, Adelaide Fire and the other ALERTS call-takers.

When volunteers or Adelaide Fire Staff have entered the conference call, they can gather all the information they need from the caller and respond with the appropriate resources.

The ALERTS system has the advantage over the 000 system that the people taking the call (local brigade volunteers) have local knowledge and can get the information required about exactly where the incident is, and where it might go. Volunteers know the area well, and descriptions like "Past the big tree at Bob's old place" mean much more than they would to a 000 call centre operator. However if brigades provide sufficient input to the SACAD project this problem should be minimised.Fact|date=February 2007

Problems may be encountered when the 000 call centre (run by Telstra) is offline or overloaded as occurs a couple of times per year on average. When fully implemented the new turn out system will be called SACAD.


All active CFS volunteers are assigned a pager. The pagers are specifically made for the Government Radio Network paging system and are Samsung model SFA-170 pagers. These pagers receive alpha-numeric pages and maildrops. Tones for info pages and maildrops can be changed, however the response/callout message will always come through on "Tone 7", a chirping tone. The pagers work at a frequency of 148.8125MHz. These pagers are not built for harsh treatment and can sometimes receive corrupted messages, depending on location.

Pagers are capable of receiving pages individually or messages sent to paging groups (Brigade, Group, Region etc). Any station can send out a page to any paging group.

MFS Response Paging

The Fire Services Call, Receipt and Dispatch Centre sends pages out in the following format: MFS Respond, Incident Number, Date / Time, Type of incident Location of incident, Map Reference, Talkgroup, Further details Brigades.

For example::MFS: *CFSRES INC033 16/06/06 07:38, RESPOND RCR, SOUTH EASTERN FWY,CRAFERS, MAP 145 C 11 TG136

The incident is a Road Crash Rescue on the South Eastern Freeway at Crafers. The Map Reference is a UBD (brand of map) reference. Brigades responded were Stirling (STRL19), Aldgate (ALDG00) and MFS Glen Osmond (GLO441)

Other Messages can also be sent from automatic systems such as those used to monitor fire alarms or station interfaces.

Call AcknowledgementA brigade that receives a page for an incident has to acknowledge receipt of the page with the sender (Adelaide Fire) within either 4 or 6 minutes. If nothing is heard from that brigade, the next appropriate resource will be paged, a process called "defaulting". In this way, the CFS can guarantee that an incident will be attended to even if no one is available to attend from the closest brigade.

Automatic responses

The CFS has standard operating procedures as to what resources are responded automatically on receipt of a call. These procedures are the same regardless of season, available resources or even further information from the caller. Appliances will not be stopped if the caller rings back to say the fire is out. If the caller rings back to say the incident is worse, naturally, extra resources will be responded.

These are the resources responding to the initial page, many more can be called in if needed. The CFS has adopted a "Better safe than sorry" approach, and although it can be a waste of resources for false alarms, when the incident is real, the extra resources on hand mean the CFS can deal with the incident quickly and effectively.

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