Country Fire Authority preps for bushfires with HP

CFA Victoria has rolled out the first phase of the three-year deal, establishing a system monitoring dashboard for its alerts and warnings system

Country Fire Authority CIO, Michael Foreshew

Country Fire Authority CIO, Michael Foreshew

Victoria’s Country Fire Authority (CFA) has entered into a three-year deal with HP for the supply of ICT services to improve the management of information in its Advanced Warning System (AWS) in time for the impending bushfire season.

Under the three-year deal, CFA has deployed HP’s Business Services Management platform “off the shelf” and configured it to create a System Monitoring Dashboard (SMD) to manage all of the different information flows coming into its AWS.

CFA executive manager technology services, Michael Foreshew, told Computerworld Australia the contract fell under “significant” funding the organisation received following the 7 February 2009 'Black Saturday' bushfires. Since then, CFA has increased its technology fleet by about 200 per cent.

Following the devastation of the last bushfire season, Foreshew said the organisation needed to improve its alerts and warnings capability which involved the adoption of a national standard and protocol around information that that had to go to the public.

“When a natural disaster strikes, we cannot afford for our systems to fail as lives and properties are at stake. Many emergency services have to coordinate, manage and move as one,” he said.

The developed system, One Source One Message (OSOM), enabled CFA to send the alerts and warning information via distribution mediums including its website, iPhone app, Facebook, Twitter, the Victorian Bushfire Information Line, emails and RSS feeds to reach the public in a medium most relevant to them.

“That whole system is absolutely crucial but because of the way it operates in the Cloud as a software-as-a-service, it takes incident information in real time from an incident and brings it all together so it’s got a lot of moving parts,” he said. “We’ve got information coming from 000, the Bureau of Meteorology as well as a variety of information flows from within our field, so the HP solution allows us to monitor the status of each of these flows and if there is a problem we can immediately get onto it before we have to create an alert or warning with no information.”

The dashboard will supply CFA with the information to ensure they can provide timely, accurate updates and respond more quickly to failures and restore alert services as they occur.

The rollout is in two parts of which the first was completed in early November after a three month implementation period. This focused on ensuring the systems and infrastructure required to issue a public alert was being monitored, which Foreshew said was most crucial coming into the fire season.

“Basically, we want to make sure information is as reliable and as accurate as can be and get that to the people fighting the fires and also to the general public to help support them in making their decision around what they do in a bushfire.”

“We’ve done extensive testing which is how we know it’s working and we’ve staged every single incident that we know of that would cause the ability for CFA to lose the ability to issue warning.”

The second phase, the larger of the two, will be planned and built over the summer, Foreshew said, and is scheduled for implementation around April-May 2012.

“Next year is the rollout of the rest of the HP solution to all of our networks so we’ll be monitoring our network links, servers and applications.

“The other thing that’s also going to be very different with this project… is that we will be putting this into our radio over IP network as well to monitor the status of our radio links and the towers.”

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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