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In most Australian jurisdictions and, indeed, many other countries around the world with a common publicly accessible emergency access telephone number (i.e. 000, 111, 999, 911, 112), the coordination of field responder resources is conducted by the Emergency Services Organisation (ESO), as in police, fire and ambulance services. This is managed through a service specific emergency communications centre, also colloquially known as a public safety answering point (PSAP), hosted within the individual ESO structure. In Australia these emergency services organisations are administered and funded by the respective state and territory government agencies under applicable legislation, except Western Australia and the Northern Territory, where ambulance services are run by the charitable organisation, St JohnAmbulance.

Victoria is the only jurisdiction in Australia where an integrated model was established. The Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) was inaugurated as a statutory authority on 1 July 2005, under the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority Act 2004 (Vic).

ESTA processes triple zero calls received from the public and triaged through the emergency call person – Telstra. It then allocates resources for the ESOs -Ambulance Victoria, Victoria Police, the Country Fire Authority, Fire Rescue Victoria and the Victoria State Emergency Service.  In this respect, the integration of emergency services communications within a single statutory authority is unique in Australia and atypical globally, with only 27 similar models around the world as of 2018.

ESTA provides seamless access to emergency responses for the Victorian community and enables more effective and faster emergency resolution. Last year, ESTA responded to 2.8 million requests for help, including1.9 million triple zero calls. It also dispatched 2.2 m events and facilitated 34 million communications with first responders.

To determine where advances in emergency services are heading, ESTA asked itself the question, “How will public safety technology and businesses operate in 2030 and what do we need to do today to prepare and plan for the future?”

ESTA considered global trends and explored community expectations of our role in emergency management to understand the future of emergency communications services. That future requires multi-channel capabilities and a real-time flow of information to support fast and effective decision-making.

To position ESTA for the future, we have moved from a functional organisational structure to a services model with three key areas.

·      Emergency Communications Services

Comprising event and call-taking, community advice, dispatch, emergency field responder support and safety monitoring.

·      Emergency Communications Information Services

Providing key information and data services, including digital channels, intelligence systems, radio/ data messaging services and data feeds to ESOs and the government.

·      Emergency Management Services

Supporting Emergency Management Victoria to resolve large events and help Victorians in the critical moments before the activation of the state emergency control centre.

We recognise that emergency services will become more reliant on contemporary technology in the future.  Accuracy of location and routing, use of text, video, sensors and the ‘Internet of Things’ to access triple zero services is where we need to focus our strategic plan

We are working on four themes this year to take ESTA into the future and our people on that journey:

·      Further exploring the digital world to improve callers’ experiences and the way we respond to emergencies

·      Improving our operating model to ensure we have more flexibility and opportunity to have relevant and high-performing services for Victorians and our emergency service partners

·      Enhancing our mental health and well-being, ensuring we take care of our people so they can take care ofVictorians and emergency service partners, supporting our emergency service partners and the government’s strategic objectives – working better together to share data, insights and improve the way we respond to emergencies for the benefit of all Victorians including visitors to our state.

For ESTA, the future of emergency communications is about ensuring we:

·      are resilient

·      have redundancies, as we are a critical public service

·      can process robust data requirements, sending intelligent data to field responders to enhance safety and situational awareness

·      improve how the public communicates with us and how we respond to the agencies to which we provide services.

·      keep striving to collaborate in new ways with the public, our vendors and agencies in a data-rich, information-centric.public safety environment

·      use predictive analytics to support emergency communications professionals. Improved incident data processing will enable us to provide enhanced safety for first responders and improved outcomes for the public. We need to increase significantly our ability to share information and data across emergency organisations by investing in technology, for example, by enabling video and photos from callers’ phones to be shared with first responders.

Marty Smyth is the Chief Executive Officer - Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA). Marty has more than 30 years of emergency services and senior management experience in New Zealand and Queensland, most recently being QueenslandAmbulance Service Director, Frontline Operations Systems Support.
He began his career as a medic with the Royal New Zealand Air Force before becoming an intensive care paramedic with St John Ambulance. His early experience included training and educating, and clinical governance and quality assurance, before he was appointed Chief Ambulance Officer for the Wellington Free Ambulance Service. Marty moved to the Queensland Ambulance Service in 2007and held various roles there, including Director of a Department of Science,Information Technology, and Innovation program, implementing the GovernmentWireless Network; that role required intensive collaboration with government agencies, including the police, fire, and ambulance services.

Marty holds master’s degrees in Management and Business Administration and has significant commercial experience administering and leading service delivery through major change. This includes oversight and delivery of large government contracts within a range of funding models, and major projects including the transition of emergency radio networks. In his most recent role, he was responsible for amalgamating and restructuring teams to deliver end-to-end information communication systems in public-facing emergency operations centres and field operations across Queensland.