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Life Saving Radio Communication

Implementing radio communications on a farm is akin to setting up a safety net—you understand its potential to be life-saving during emergencies but hope never to rely on it. Such sentiments resonate with the team at Castlepoint Station in the Wairarapa. However, in today's reality, they recognize the indispensable role that RTs play, not only in the efficient day-to-day operations of a farm but also in critical moments of crisis.

Castlepoint Station spans 3,700 hectares along 12 kilometers of the Wairarapa coastline, supporting both a sheep and beef operation as well as farm forestry. While the rugged coastal terrain of Castlepoint Beach offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Wairarapa, it presents challenges in maintaining communication across the station. A solution to this challenge emerged years ago when Peter Laing, then manager, observed the use of RTs during a visit to the farm his daughter was working on in Australia and decided to implement the idea at Castlepoint.

Fast forward to 1998 when Anders and Emily Crofoot assumed management of the station. At that time, RTs were installed on all quads, with a base station situated in the Homestead. However, over the years, the units aged and experienced frequent breakdowns. Additionally, issues arose due to the fixed nature of the RTs, with shepherds often unable to hear communications when away from their quads. Enter Teletronics, who collaborated with Anders and his team to modernize the system. The station transitioned to handheld radios for all staff members (including 5 full-time employees and additional units for casuals) and installed base radios in dwellings likely to be occupied during the day.

The benefits of this upgrade became evident immediately:

  • Enhanced safety for staff: With base stations strategically positioned throughout dwellings, there is generally someone available to relay messages via phone, particularly in emergencies.

  • Efficient communication: Immediate responses to queries facilitate a seamless workflow.

  • Coordination: Open communication ensures that everyone is informed about ongoing tasks and their locations, aiding in tasks such as mustering.

  • Team support: Staff members can assist each other by providing answers to questions, even when the intended recipient is unavailable.

While the safety provided by handheld RTs has fortunately not been frequently tested, there was one incident where a shepherd's life was potentially saved. During a routine day, the shepherd overturned his quad, becoming trapped underneath it with the vehicle compressing his chest. Such injuries can be fatal within minutes, but thanks to his radio, he was able to call for help immediately, initiating life-saving contact with other staff members. The shepherd who came to his aid, had had previous experience as a first responder and said the only people he had seen that blue before had been dead. Thankfully the shepherd received the care he needed and lived on to tell the tale.

Safety, efficiency, and open communication are paramount for farm managers across the board. RTs not only save time and money but also serve as essential lifelines during emergencies. These are just a few of the numerous benefits that handheld radio communication has afforded the owners and staff at Castlepoint Station. In the years during Teletronics' implementation of RT solutions, the station further improved coverage in the hilly terrain by installing a repeater. Presently, the station boasts six base stations: four in dwellings, one in the workshop, and one at the Holiday Park and experience the benefits of this technology to this day.

Thanks to Anders Crofoot of Castlepoint station

Written By Anna Bensemann - Teletronics Ltd

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