'Safer' £45m radio system for Welsh fire teams launches
A new £45m digital radio system for Welsh firefighters means crews can speak directly to each other instead of giving messages to control centres.
The Firelink system already operates in England and Scotland, and has taken four years to arrive in Wales.
Officials say the radios allow co-ordinated responses to wider emergencies and give more safety to fire crews and the public they protect.
More than 1,000 new terminals have been fitted in vehicles and control rooms.
The new fire service radios pledge to give officers in Wales clearer calls, removing background noise and crackles.
The digital element of the new system should also offer better security, as members of the public can no longer listen in to communication over the airwaves.
It should also mean that response time can be improved, as the closest appliances are sent to incidents.
Social Justice Minister Carl Sargeant said: "With the threat of a major emergency or large scale incident, it is essential our fire crews have the equipment they need to co-ordinate a multi-agency response.
"Since the introduction of Firelink, fire crews are better equipped to respond to day-to-day incidents and have the communications technology they need to deal with a major catastrophe.
"The safety of our firefighters and the people they protect is of the utmost importance and I am delighted to support this initiative."
It has taken more than four years to bring the system into place in Wales, after the assembly government announced plans to deploy Firelink back in March 2006.
It has been developed by the company, Airwave, which also provides secure radio communications for other British emergency services.
Clear and secure
South Wales chief fire officer Andy Marles said the new radios gave his officers a more effective and safer communications service.
"This new system will enhance the services' ability to respond collectively to major incidents, by allowing fire and rescue appliances supporting major incidents the ability to speak directly to the control room managing the incident - wherever it may be," he said.
"The system is also more resilient and secure and offers inter-interoperability with other blue lights services.
"All these important functions help us as a fire and rescue service to continually protect the communities in which we serve to the highest of standards."
Simon Smith, head of the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: "This is real advance in technology that has significant benefits for our communities".
"The Firelink project has delivered a more resilient and enhanced voice communication system that allows interoperability with our emergency service partners, as well as delivering mobile data and vehicle tracking to fire service appliances."