City to bring emergency operations into 21st Century

09 Dec 2019

Just a few weeks before the 30th anniversary of the Newcastle earthquake, a modern emergency operations centre proposed for the City’s new Administration Centre will be considered by Councillors at their final meeting of the year.

If approved next Tuesday night, the facility at 12 Stewart Avenue will provide a large, fully equipped space for emergency services and welfare agency personnel to manage responses to natural disasters, such as earthquakes, bushfires, floods, and other major incidents.

City of Newcastle Director of Governance David Clarke said the ageing existing facility at Tighes Hill was unsuitable for emergency operations and there was now an opportunity to build something fit for purpose at the new City Administration Centre.

“It has become clear that the City’s emergency operations centre at Tighes Hill doesn’t comply with modern standards and isn’t compatible with our partnering emergency services’ technologies,” Mr Clarke said.

“The proposed new operations centre would be activated during natural disasters or other emergencies and provide emergency services the best possible facilities to support the people on the ground responding to incidents.

“The sixth floor of our secure City Administration Centre is the best option for the new facility due to its central location, full range of amenities and access to backup power via onsite generators.

“Our City Library had to be used during the recent catastrophic bushfire event because the existing site at Tighes Hill is now 30 years old and lacks the required technology to lead a disaster response from. Equally, the City Library is not a suitable long-term solution due to its insufficient size, lack of emergency power and IT equipment.”

State Emergency Service’s Newcastle Commander, Ian Robinson, said the way emergency services respond to major incidents had evolved with technology and it was important to have the right facilities in place.

“We’ve come a long way from the days of having hard-wired telephones on the desk and using paper-based maps when responding to emergency situations, and the current facilities at Tighes Hill, for not only the Newcastle Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), but also the City of Newcastle SES Headquarters, which co-houses the EOC, are long overdue for modernisation, as neither facility adequately meet the current needs, nor the foreseeable future needs of the community in the face of an emergency situation,” Mr Robinson said.

“The City of Newcastle’s proposed new facility at 12 Stewart Avenue is an important step towards modernising Newcastle’s ability to adequately respond to an emergency situation, providing a modern, technologically advanced centre, from which the Local Emergency Operations Control Centre can oversee critical situations with confidence.”

The co-location of the Local Emergency Operations Control Centre at the City Administration Centre will allow for all necessary IT and audio/visual infrastructure, furniture and support facilities at a central location in Newcastle West.

City of Newcastle is required to provide a Local Emergency Operations Control facility under the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act1989.

Fast facts

The emergency operations centre would feature:

  • A 16-seat conferencing facility with wireless presentation, TV connectivity for news coverage, weather, traffic cameras, server and four 65-inch screens and mobile 86-inch screen
  • An eight-seat, dedicated video conference room with a 65-inch screen, wireless presentation and network connectivity
  • Capability to open to one 32-seat room or incorporate other areas, and breakaway spaces
  • Eight dedicated workstations, 12-seat elevated bench seating, whiteboards and 86-inch screen
  • Power and data including high-speed Wi-Fi access and multi-function devices capable of high-speed printing and scanning
  • Kitchen area capable of providing meals during a city-wide blackout
  • Two diesel powered-generators capable of indefinitely powering 100 per cent of the building load
  • Uninterruptable power supply throughout City Administration Centre levels supplying communications infrastructure
  • Onsite parking, secure access and secure toilet and shower facilities.

It is expected to cost $1.8 million to deliver the emergency operations centre, which would be operational by May 2020.