Country fire authority enhances communications

Thursday, 25 November, 2010

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) has engaged NetstarLogicalis to work with the CFA Technology Services Department to re-architect its communications network, to allow for faster, improved flow of information across the organisation’s 30+ Incident Control Centres (ICCs) during a bushfire. The upgrade included a standardised technology platform based on Cisco products which would be rolled out in two phases.

Glenn Kerr, Senior Network Administrator, CFA, said, “The CFA has more than 60,000 full-time staff and volunteers who work across more than 150,000 square kilometres of land in Victoria. With corporate headquarters based in Burwood, the CFA services over 20 regional areas across Victoria. This represents almost a million homes and about 2.5 million people who can find themselves in life-threatening situations. Therefore, it is critical that our communications network allows us to communicate between our Incident Control Centres and with staff quickly, accurately and effectively in emergency situations.

“Each fire season presents us with the opportunity to review, improve and learn from our experiences. We chose to work alongside NetstarLogicalis for this project because of the value they provided to us during the planning and strategy phases and the fact they helped us find a solution that could integrate with and complement our existing technology services capability. NetstarLogicalis has become a trusted technical adviser and an extension of the team. The network we now have will last us for another five to 10 years, and give us the opportunity to do much more, now that the initial phases are complete.

“The new network means we can improve the flow of information between our Incident Control Centres, State Control Centre, firefighters, administrative staff and most importantly the community during a bushfire, providing real-time updates on fire incidents, firefighter welfare and weather forecasts as they develop.”

The first stage of the project  was completed in January 2010 and involved upgrading the CFA’s existing communications system at its largest ICCs (Level 3 bases) across Victoria. The solution was based on Cisco Catalyst switches and included hardware, software and maintenance. This provided a unified network for data, voice and video. It is designed to help customers manage power consumption across the network and attached devices, allowing the CFA to reduce energy costs and its carbon footprint.

The second stage of the project is currently underway. It is designed to enhance communications access to 150 Level 2 Divisional Command bases across the state to Cisco ISR G2 routers. Equipped with 3G routing and WLAN switching, it provides CFA with the ability to deploy or move remote firefighting command operations with ease and speed.

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