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Wednesday, 07 December 2016 17:07

2 Minute Briefing - Communications & Technology

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 26/11/2016)

DIGITAL SCANNER/LISTENING SETS TIER 3 STILL OPEN

The Digital Scanner subsidisation program advocated by VFBV and run in partnership with CFA has been an overwhelming success, since it began in October 2015. So far, 10,478 digital scanners have been ordered and shipped to Brigades and Groups across the state.  The subsidy budget, and the savings to members, represents over $3 million dollars.

More than 970 Brigades and 80 Groups have placed and received their Tier 1 & 2 orders, and Tier 3 is still under way. Under the Tier 1 program, every Brigade was entitled to a minimum of eight units at the subsidised price.  On average, Brigades ordered 3.5 units under Tier 1, and Groups took up one of their guaranteed minimum of two units.  Under Tiers 1 and 2 members paid $150 for a scanner, with the subsidy budget paying the other $296.75

Scanners are still available: CFA is still accepting Tier 3 orders, from Brigades, Groups and individual members. Tier 3 units are available at cost price, which was significantly reduced due to the bulk orders placed during the subsidisation program.  Members can order units for $446.75 plus postage and handling, while stocks last.  Order forms are still available from the VFBV website.

EAS PAGER OBSERVATION REPORTS MONITORING

Each quarter, the committee receives detailed reporting on the number of EAS Page observation reports submitted, including the type of issues reported, the length of time to investigate, and the results of each investigation. Encouragingly, since implementing this reporting cycle, the committee has observed a significant reduction in the time taken to resolve issues and the quality of reporting. Over the year, the 3 most common reported faults have been; not receiving messages (~38%), physical damage to the pager (~18%), and lost or stolen pagers (~10%).

Members are reminded of the importance of lodging EAS fault reports when they experience problems with their pagers. This information is critically important in identifying network performance issues as well as monitoring the health and status of the current pagers. The committee has requested that CFA investigate and prioritize the introduction of Electronic Observation Reports in addition to the current reporting option, which would provide more timely feedback to the member raising the concern. CFA has agreed to investigate, scope and report back.

PROPOSED REGIONAL RADIO DISPATCH SERVICE EXPANSION TO OUTER METRO DISTRICTS

For many years now VFBV and the Committee have been advocating for the Regional Mobile Radio Network to be expanded to cover the outer metropolitan districts. This network provides high quality digital P25 network capabilities and much improved radio audio quality. Under the Regional Radio Dispatch Service project announced back in 2013, the CFA network has been upgraded to the new digital network in all CFA districts excluding Districts 7, 8, 13 and 14 and has been a resounding success.

Unfortunately, these four Districts were not funded through RRDS and are still operating on the analogue dispatch network. Given these are amongst the busiest Districts in the state, the inability to access the digital dispatch network has far reaching consequences, one of them being these Districts will have no means to access improved functionality, such as the short status button functionality when it finally rolls out. Given the impact short status messaging will have on reducing radio congestion, this would provide a significant improvement to the busy outer metropolitan dispatch systems. In principle approval for expansion has now been announced, and CFA is now working with EMV, VicPol and SES in scoping a new project to potentially deliver on this commitment. VFBV welcomes this long awaited progress and will continue our advocacy to ensure the project receives adequate funding and government priority.   

Issue 15: December 2015

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 28/11/2015)

LISTENING SETS A reminder that Brigades & Groups only have a few weeks left to submit their Tier 1 and Tier 2 orders. Orders are due by January 15, 2016 at the latest. Any scanners left over after this time will be sold. Order forms and advertising of the subsidy program commenced on the 16th October, giving brigades over 90 days to lodge their orders.

As at writing, over 800 brigades and 70 groups have placed their Tier 1 & 2 orders, representing orders for almost 8,000 digital scanners. Under the Tier 1 program, every Brigade is entitled to a minimum of 8 guaranteed units at the subsidized price. On average, Brigades are ordering 3.5 units on their Tier 1 orders, with Groups on average taking up 1 of their guaranteed minimum of 2 units.

VFBV is providing the logistical and administrative support for the ordering process and is currently processing orders and forwarding to CFA for dispatch within 24 hours of receiving your brigade/group orders.

PAGER AND DIGITAL COMMS

The committee has for some time been reporting concerns regarding diminished pager and radio reception issues amongst new fire station builds. Due to the current design and construction, there is an increasing incidence of a Faraday cage phenomenon. A Faraday cage or shield is essentially an enclosure formed by conductive material that is used to block electric fields. It is commonly used to protect sensitive equipment from radio frequency interference etc and as many of our stations are essentially large metal boxes – this unintended effect is leaving some Brigades being unable to receive any pager messages when members are inside the station. CFA representatives have raised the issue with CFA Building and Property requesting design modifications that will help minimize the problem. Comms is currently investigating technological solutions to existing stations that are impacted by this problem, with the committee being briefed on two solutions currently being explored. Members should also be aware, that the committee is investigating some anecdotal evidence that this Faraday cage phenomenon may also be occurring under certain conditions when members are inside vehicles, including fire trucks. A related but similar issue is being explored with a report of decreased performance of a portable radio when operating within the cabin, and in cases where all the windows are tinted (with some window types being metalized.) In one example, portable reception was restored by simply opening the appliance’s windows. This is a good example of the importance of Brigades using observation reports to report issues which allow trends and issues to be identified.

NEW FLEXIBILITY IN PRE DETERMINED STRIKE TEAM DISPATCH

CFA and ESTA have finalized additional flexibility to cater for pre-determined strike team dispatching. Last year the committee raised concerns about some Districts reverting to District wide paging of all Brigades to activate strike teams under the mistaken belief it was not possible to customize CAD rules. This can have a significant impact on members across an entire district being unnecessarily woken during the night for the dispatch of strike teams that having nothing to do with them.

Regional and District Duty Officers now have an improved ability to advise ESTA of day by day strike team configuration, including individual appliances and Brigades, which also caters for cross crewing etc so paging of strike teams can be isolated to only those Brigades and personnel that need to be notified. All OM’s and OO’s have been advised of the new system via CFA’s Operational Communications department.

Issue 14: October 2015

A quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 15/09/2015)

 

LISTENING SETS

CFA and VFBV through the Joint Communications & Technology Committee and CFA’s Business Services Team have been diligently working on a replacement Listening Set since 2010, and are pleased to announce the commencement of an extensive subsidization program to assist members with their purchase. This is a long awaited outcome for members with the first units available to ship November 1st.

Please refer to the extensive digital Scanner information pack included in our October mail out (and the VFBV website). The “pack” contains a letter, order form (sample completed order form) and FAQs sheet. If you have any queries please contact VFBV on 9886 1141, VFBV will be providing administrative support for the process of orders.

All brigades & groups have 90 days to submit their Tier 1 and Tier 2 orders. Orders are due by January 15, 2016 at the latest. Any scanners left over after this time will be sold. This program would not have been possible without CFA’s support and approval, and VFBV wishes to thank CFA for the establishment and support of the subsidisation program for the benefit of members.

 

EAS (PAGER) USER REFERENCE PANEL

The committee continues to receive complaints from members regarding the current pagers. The Committee has again requested CFA to discuss with EMV the status of the user group and the desire for it to include good volunteer representation to allow informed decisions about what the new generation pager will look like and how it will operate. CFA has advised it is supportive of the concept and will re-raise the issue with EMV, as it is a multi-agency device and EMV is responsible for its coordination. The Committee is eager to start volunteer consultation early so that consultation will inform the specifications of a future device, instead of simply reacting to what is currently on the market now.

Please inform your State Councillor of your views on what is required in the next generation pager in order to assist the Committee in any preliminary discussions.

 

ESTA RADIO PATCHING OF DISTRICTS

There has been much confusion relating to ESTA patching District radio dispatch channels and extra radio traffic during some busy periods which has concerned members. Patching is the process used to “merge” multiple District dispatch channels into a temporary single channel so it can be managed by a single ESTA operator. The downside is, every District that has been patched with another now hears all the radio traffic from all those Districts that have been patched together. The committee met with an ESTA representative and discussed members concerns and the impacts linking has on brigades. ESTA have advised they are working on developing new procedures to expedite the “de-linking” of Districts during multiple events, and are also seeking government funding that would reduce ESTA’s reliance on linking, which is directly tied to the number of operators that are on shift.

The Committee is discussing with ESTA the increasing number of false alarm calls being received by brigades who arrive only to find the burn was a registered burn off and is being adequately managed by the land owner. ESTA have advised they are currently refining the operator scripts and questions that ESTA operators will use to interrogate 000 callers to better improve the identification of registered burn offs and avoid responding brigades unnecessarily.

 

IMPROVEMENTS TO REGISTERED BURNOFF REGISTRATION

The Committee is discussing with ESTA the increasing number of false alarm calls being received by brigades who arrive only to find the burn was a registered burn off and is being adequately managed by the land owner. ESTA have advised they are currently refining the operator scripts and questions that ESTA operators will use to interrogate 000 callers to better improve the identification of registered burn offs and avoid responding brigades unnecessarily.

Issue 13: July 2015

A quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 27/06/15)

LISTENING SETS

Significant progress has been made with the selection of a Phase 2 Digital Listening set. CFA completed its Technical evaluation in early May, and advised the Listening Set Working Party that only one set successfully passed CFA’s technical requirements. That set was posted to all members of the Listening Set Working party on the 7th May for field testing. Detailed feedback was collected from each of the volunteers participating in the Listening Set Working party, and was received by CFA on the 27 May.

On the 12th June, CFA consolidated all individual working party feedback and evaluation comments, and provided a detailed User Feedback document to the working party for review. A finalised feedback document was provided and endorsed on the 23rd June, and provided to the supplier for discussion, along with recommended improvements. Overall, feedback from both the CFA Technical evaluation and the volunteer field trials was positive, with the majority of feedback indicating the selected unit either met expectations or was above expectations. The strongest criticism of the working party was, given the numerous and large range of options and abilities of the scanner, that the manufacturer be requested to provide a CFA default configuration out of the box – so members would not have to fully configure the device themselves. CFA has informed the working party that the manufacturer/supplier has agreed to provide a CFA configuration out of the box, including a CFA tailored user guide/tip sheet.

In early July, CFA informed VFBV that it had completed contract negotiations with the supplier, and was satisfied with the supplier’s responses to both the CFA technical evaluation findings and the working party findings.

As at the date of this update, CFA and VFBV are currently discussing the distribution process, with VFBV having submitted its preferred distribution model to CFA for consideration. The preferred model agreed to at June’s State Council meeting is a model that would provide every Brigade with an opportunity to purchase an equal guaranteed number of sets with a full subsidy cost, and then provide Brigades with a priority list for orders above what the subsidy program can provide, and to equally redistribute unwanted sets from those brigades that may choose not to take up their full allotment.

Full details of the subsidy program, unit costs and the distribution process is expected to be announced by CFA in the next two weeks, and a joint communique is currently being prepared that will explain the program and ordering process. The program is expected to be in full swing, well prior to this year’s fire season, and we will keep members apprised as we learn more. VFBV has offered to provide increased logistics and administrative support to offset the higher workload we believe is required to run the distribution program as equitably as possible, ensuring all brigades are provided fair and equal opportunity to avail themselves of the reduced cost units through the subsidy program, and ensure no brigades are disadvantaged by remoteness or access to electronic ordering systems.

ANALOGUE CHANNEL DEACTIVATIONS

The Committee has become aware of an increasing number of analogue channel deactivations, and expressed its frustration and disappointment to CFA that these were occurring, despite an agreement with CFA that it would not decommission analogue services until analogue listening sets had been replaced.

CFA representatives explained that the analogue services being decommissioned where operationally required in order to provide increased digital capacity in the network, and was not being done prior to District Operations Managers signally their approval.

Committee members were advised that it was the OM’s responsibility to conduct local consultation prior to providing their approval of the deactivations. Members are therefore advised that should you have concerns with analogue channels being decommissioned prior to listening sets being replaced, you should proactively discuss those concerns with your OM so they are aware of your concerns prior to approving the channel deactivation.

Issue 12: April 2015

A quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 11/04/15)

LISTENING SETS

The Committee requested a report on the status of the project to introduce new listening sets. CFA advised that two proposed models are currently being technically assessed by CFA prior to issue to the nominated volunteer delegates for field testing and final evaluation. This project has been delayed several times and the committee expressed its frustrations with the delays and reinforced their desire for new listening sets to be available well in time for the 2015/16 fire season. Concerned by any further delays, delegates recommended to CFA that the two listening sets identified for testing be issued immediately to the volunteer reps for field testing; whilst CFA technical testing continues at the same time. This would speed up the process and ensure that the appropriate listening set is identified and purchasing arrangements put in place by June 2015. The committee will continue to monitor.

REGIONAL RADIO DISPATCH

CFA reported that the Regional Radio Dispatch project is running ahead of schedule, and thanked all CFA volunteers for their excellent support in making brigade radios available for the latest re-flash. The recent opening of District 27 required the creation of talk group 527 and fireground channels for the new District, as part of the Regional Radio Despatch project. This re-flash is adding the software required for future resource tracking and short status messaging functions. CFA advised that the latest re-flash will be finished by September.

OBSERVATION REPORTS

The committee was provided with the first CFA Observation report analysis. This new report will allow the committee to monitor outstanding observation reports, and provide greater accountability to CFA and ESTA in ensuring they are actioned and responded to. This new process, and the information contained in the report also highlighted the importance of Observation Reports as one key way for volunteers to improve the quality of CFA incident records. The committee delegates welcomed the analysis but have requested further details behind some of the reported figures so that causes and solutions may be identified.

Whilst VFBV has had reports from some Brigades that they no longer complete Observation Reports due to the perception that “nothing ever happens with them”, VFBV strongly encourages all brigades to continue to submit Observation Reports, especially now the committee can monitor their progress and resolution. Whilst some brigades may question the value in providing an Observation Report – they provide important and valuable information into CFA that can only improve the service provided by ESTA to brigades. It is hoped the report process now in place through the Joint Committee will ensure that Observation reports are investigated and actioned more swiftly in the future.

PAGERS

The committee discussed the ongoing issue with the current CFA pagers. In some cases – reports have been received of members returning their pagers to District and relying on third party notification providers via smart phones. These providers are not officially supported by the agencies and can remove their service at any time – therefore they are not a safe way of receiving an alert, even if their coverage or feature set is superior to the current CFA pager.

VFBV continues to advocate for the need to urgently address designs and feature sets of the next generation pagers, with the current pager contract due to expire next year. The Committee has suggested that a workshop be held with Emergency Management Victoria to investigate future pager options.

Issue 11: December 2014

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held Saturday 29/11/14)

LISTENING SETS

With the recent release of EMV’s Long Term Communications Plan (LTCP), CFA have had to reassess the technical specifications of Listening Sets. The LTCP articulates the State’s operational communications vision for the sector and a high level plan to progressively move towards that vision from as early as 2017.

The complication arising out of this long term plan is the requirement for agencies to move towards P25 Phase 2 digital radio comms in the future. The current CFA digital network is P25 Phase 1, and CFA have advised that should CFA or other agencies move to Phase 2 in the future, then listening sets only capable of Phase 1 will not be able to pick up Phase 2 radio traffic. CFA has requested the committee to endorse a second round of expression of interest from manufacturers to see if a listening set capable of Phase 1 and Phase 2 is available, or able to be mass produced.

The issue confronting the committee is if CFA rolls out a listening set which members have to contribute money to, and which is only compatible with the current network, we will be back to where we are now with having to replace listening sets should the State move to Phase 2. With news that the preferred manufacturer could not mass produce the chosen Phase 1 listening set before Christmas anyway, the committee has agreed to CFA’s request to run an expedited EOI process over the Christmas and New Year period, providing the process does not exceed 6 weeks, and that CFA commits to then expedite results and a decision from that process early in the new year.

The committee has again communicated to CFA the urgency being communicated by our members and the need to choose and roll out listening sets ASAP. CFA has committed to working with the committee out of session in order to ensure there are no further delays. Updates will be provided early in the New Year to update members on progress.

WEB STREAMING

Web Streaming is an option for members who don’t want to use a listening set, but would prefer to “stream” radio comms via their computer, smart phone or tablet. It is an electronic method of listening in on CFA radio channels, similar to how a listening set operates, but without the need for special hardware, or an upfront cost.

The committee was advised that attempts by CFA to develop an in house app for radio streaming has not been successful. The committee has now endorsed moving to an external “streaming” provider. A preferred supplier has been chosen, and is being trailed over the next few weeks with CFA advice that it should be able to roll out the service shortly.

Members need to be aware that this service will consume bandwidth, and those accessing via their mobile phones or tablets need to be aware of the consumption. The committee has requested CFA publish streaming rates and estimated data use per hour to ensure people can factor that into their decision to use the service.        CFA will also provide “beeps” at intervals to remind people they are still streaming – even though no voice traffic may be present on the network to assist members monitor their bandwidth usage.

PAGER CRADLES

CFA have advised there has now been some progress with a small number of visual and high volume alerting cradles being trialled for members who work in noisy environments. There are limitations to the cradle, and there are initially only 100 units available for trial. Members will provide feedback on their use. If the trial is successful, the committee will advocate for more units to be made available.

 

Issue 10: August 2014

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held Saturday 30/08/14)

LISTENING SETS

The VFBV/CFA Listening Set working party have recently met, and been provided a briefing on the results of CFA’s submission to the Victorian Government Tendering Website, for Expressions of Interest for the supply and delivery of a VHF/UHF digital listening set. Whilst there are complex probity issues involved in the evaluation & selection process, CFA has agreed to VFBV’s request for the volunteer delegates to each be provided an evaluation unit of CFA’s preferred model, in order for them to conduct field evaluations. VFBV successfully argued that a desktop analysis should form only part of the selection methodology, and issues such as useability and field conditions is vital to their acceptance in the field.

Results from those evaluations have been very positive, with only minor requests going back to the manufacturer for clarification. The working party is hoping to complete field evaluation in early September, in order to allow enough time for CFA to commence negotiations with the preferred supplier in the lead up to this year’s Fire Danger Period.

VFBV has also strongly advocated for a significant financial subsidy program, in order to subsidize the initial cost to members wishing to replace existing listening sets that will be made redundant by the closing down of the analogue network. With a significant subsidy budget now available through VFBV’s support for a Volunteer Emergency Services Equipment Program (VESEP) grant, CFA have agreed to VFBV’s request for a robust distribution and communications strategy to accompany the rollout. This will ensure equity and fairness in the process used to calculate how many subsidized units can be accommodated in the budget and how they are distributed.

Further details will be provided as soon as contractual arrangements are finalized between CFA and the manufacturer/supplier.

RADIO DISTRESS BUTTONS

The committee received reports on an increased number of radio distress button activations. With the new digital network, activation of the distress buttons on the Tait radio’s sends a priority message to VicFire, who then must implement emergency procedures to contact the radio/vehicle involved. Recently, many of these requests by VicFire have gone unanswered. This is most likely due to members accidentally activating it during routine maintenance or testing, and then switching the radio off, or are too embarrassed to respond to VicFire’s inquiry. As the radio ID is sent with all distress button activations, the committee has recommended that CFA advise District Operations Managers of any recurring problems, so that individual Brigades can be followed up if required. Brigades are requested to please ensure your members understand the severity of activating the radios distress function, and encourage your members awareness of the button during routine testing and maintenance activities, in order to avoid accidental activation.

PAGER OBSERVATION REPORTS

Amid ongoing reports of frustration from Brigades who are submitting Pager Observation Reports and are reporting that they never hear back, CFA has agreed to implement an Observation Report tracking program, that will monitor all submitted Observation Reports, and their outcome. The Committee will now receive a quarterly report of all outstanding reports, including data on how quickly submitted reports in that quarter were actioned. This not only provides improved accountability to the process, but the Committee believes that this will also provide far greater transparency to the process, and help with an improved level of understanding and support to reported pager reception issues.

 

VFBV/CFA Joint Communications & Technology Committee

2 Minute Briefing

Issue 9: May 2014

PAGERS

VFBV delegates to the Committee advised CFA that State Council is writing to the CFA Board, advising that VFBV continues to receive a high level number of complaints from Districts as to the suitability of the “new” Alpha Legend Pager. VFBV is requesting the CFA Board implement a process by which the Board can monitor complaints being raised and monitor the adequacy of proposed solutions & report back to State Council.

VFBV has reported the view provided by several Districts that there are some fundamental deficiencies in the pager that will not be able to be resolved via firmware updates, and that CFA should immediately start planning on a replacement pager for when the current contract ends in 2016/17.

The Committee conducted an effective workshop to brainstorm what processes could be used in the future, to identify key user requirements well before the selection of a replacement pager. Delegates continue to request CFA be proactive and start pre-planning to ensure that pagers of the future will meet emergency sector volunteer (end user) requirements.

BLACKSPOTS COVERAGE REMEDIATION PROGRAM UPDATE

The program is now running slightly behind target due to weather, etc. & will not be completed by June 2013.

17 black spot repeater stations have been completed this year so far and remaining ones should be completed for fit-out to occur. There are approximately 11-12 that are in current stages of being built.

There are also some sites that are still being used for analogue dispatch, so when they are "switched" off they shall provide additional capacity to cater for Incident Management Channels.

LISTENING SETS REDUNDANCY

CFA advised the Committee they have now decided on a preferred supplier. VFBV will be meeting with CFA within the next two weeks to provide comment on CFA’s preferred set.

VFBV delegates to the committee requested a guarantee that the simulcast of dispatch on the analogue network will not be switched off prior to the new digital listening sets being made available. Whilst stopping short of a guarantee, due to external parties which may influence the final decision, CFA provided assurances that the provision of listening sets was now a high priority, and they were expecting significant progress to be made within the next 2 months. Delegates will continue to monitor and encourage CFA to progress this issue with haste.

REGIONAL RADIO DISPATCH SERVICE

The Committee received very positive feedback from Districts that have changed over to the new digital network, with the training & improved dispatch service being very well accepted. It is expected that all District (excluding 7,8,13 & 14) will be completed by 14th July. CFA re-affirmed that the "switch" in each District will not occur until each respective District is satisfied that digital provides adequate coverage.

Friday, 23 May 2014 00:00

CFA communications survey

Two years ago, CFA asked members what their communications preferences were. The results of that survey led to a number of improvements including the regular inclusion of Regional Director columns in Brigade magazine and the introduction of an online version of the magazine.

Communications technology is rapidly evolving, especially with the revolution in smart phone use, so CFA is going back to members to ask again how they wish to be kept informed and which content they find useful.

The online will take 5 minutes to complete, and the responses collected will help CFA better understand the communication needs of staff and volunteers.

The 2014 survey is now available here:www.surveymonkey.com/s/Comms2014

The survey will close on Monday 4 August, and, a printed copy will be included in the winter edition of Brigade magazine.

Published in CFA News

Communications & Technology

Joint Committee -2 Minute Briefing

Issue 8 - March 2014

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 01/03/2014)

REGIONAL RADIO DISPATCH SERVICE UPDATE

CFA has advised that the industrial bargaining processes at ESTA have now been resolved and the training for ESTA console operators to uptake the new digital network requirements can commence. The planned roll out of the digital radio dispatch migration commencing with District 12 will now be re-scheduled with CFA already accepting the technical requirements and capabilities of Telstra’s network infrastructure in both District 12 and District 16. The network infrastructure works by Telstra is progressing to plan with 97 of the 193 sites constructed and powered up.

Coverage acceptance testing  which involves a physical drive across the entire District coverage area sees three (3) Districts accepted being D12, D16 and D22. The physical testing involves two specially fitted out CFA vehicles visiting all CFA stations, satellites and along all major roads testing signal integrity, strength and coverage.

Training programs are progressing as per the original project schedule with ‘train the trainer’ sessions completed in Districts 12, 2, 15 and D6. Ongoing refinements to the training program and materials is being undertaken based on the feedback from participants and trainers.

Radio Reflash – Progressing on the schedule as planned with more than 10,600 radios reflashed with a greater than 82% ‘first pass’ success rate.

 

LISTENING SET REDUNDANCY - UPDATE

CFA have advised that Business Cases for digital listening sets and streaming of dispatch channels on a web based platform have been approved by the CFA’s Executive Leadership Team (ELT).

STREAMING of digital dispatch audio to internet connected devices (eg personal computer, smart phone) in a similar fashion to ABC radio being streamed to the internet. CFA is ready to commence trials – currently waiting for audio traffic to start across the CFA Districts as they transition from analogue to digital.

DIGITAL LISTENING SETS - Expressions of Interest were called by CFA for suppliers to detail there product types and costings – the EOI process has now closed and CFA are evaluating the responses from a number of submissions received. A formal recommendation about the next steps will be developed in response to the evaluation process.

 

NBN and Power Outages

The JCAT Committee heard some disturbing reports from locations where NBN access has been enabled to homes and businesses that in times of power disruption phones interconnected as part of bundled packages are also falling silent. Members in Brigades should be aware that this loss of functionality during periods of emergency where notionally power is lost could leave brigades and members vulnerable without adequate back up systems.

 

PAGERS

VFBV delegates pressed CFA and ESTA to immediately commence field and evaluation trailing of a Visual Alert Cradle that may enhance user awareness of the pager receiving a message when that member works or is located in noisy environments. For many CFA members this is the case and a technology solution in the form of an accessory such as this alert cradle may provide members who demonstrate the need for such a device a useable solution.

An EAS Pager User Reference Panel will be established with VFBV representation to monitor and provide direction for pager improvements, software glitch fixes and will look immediately into what future product options can be developed to replace the Alpha Legend pager at the earliest possible time.

Pagers Not Working Properly – Some of the Over the Air (OTA) reprogramming that was completed during the pager rollout has not been successful and there is evidence that a further attempt can in many cases solve some unsatisfactory performance and user issues. Members should call the EAS Pager Help Line to request another OTA reprogramming session.

 

Communications & Technology

Joint Committee -2 Minute Briefing

Issue 7, November 2013

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 10/11/2013)

REGIONAL RADIO DISPATCH SERVICE UPDATE

CFA has advised that due to industrial negotiations as part of an EBA process at ESTA, the planned roll out of the digital radio dispatch migration commencing with District 12 will be delayed. With ESTA operator work bans in place, no training for console operators is possible and the planned 8th December 2013 cut over to digital radio dispatch in District 12 will now be delayed. CFA will advise all members of the changed timelines for migration based on this recent development.

On a positive note, CFA advises that the infrastructure development of the new digital network is progressing ahead of schedule by Telstra and that early field truth testing is providing excellent coverage and clarity results. At the same time the Tait radio reflash program is steaming ahead with this program well advanced and a necessary step in getting all CFA radios digital ready. Training programs are also well advanced with CFA keen to progress the training for members in spite of the delays to actual migration dates.

LISTENING SET REDUNDANCY - UPDATE

CFA has advised that two solutions to the issue of the redundancy of analogue Listening Sets have received CFA Executive Leadership Team endorsement.  First, CFA proposes to engage a provider to stream dispatch channel audio to internet subscribers and mobile devices such as smart phones and tablet devices.

The second part of the plan is the identification of suitable digital listening sets and the prospect of CFA obtaining special pricing from the vendors.  VFBV has advised CFA that while audio streaming is one good option, the demand for replacement listening sets, in either portable or base format, is as yet unknown.  CFA is about to test the market, seeking expressions of interest from vendors who may have products that would meet the users’ requirements.

BRIGADE INTERNET CONNECTIVITY & INFORMATION SYSTEMS WORKING GROUP

The newly appointed CFA Executive Manager of Technology Services Justin Bree convened the first meeting of the this new Working Party. The question of CFA having data connectivity to all its shop fronts – its Brigades has long been an issue for resolution for VFBV. Many brigades proactively fund their own internet service by contract arrangements with independent service providers. The wide variety of connections, speeds, data upload and download capacities plus the difficulties of private email and access addresses makes the communication highway a very rutted and at times impassable track.

The intent and focus of this new working party is to identify the solutions and opportunities that may exist or are soon to emerge in providing brigades and senior authorised members with access to CFA data systems to assist in the day to day operations of their community service work. The future National Broadband Network capabilities may factor into better and price competitive options for Brigades and authorised members to link to the system. Opportunities for CFA negotiated service agreements and services forms part of VFBV’s objective in pursuing this initiative.

PAGER REPLACEMENT

Evidence from volunteers across the VFBV network indicate that there is a widespread dissatisfaction with the performance, reliability and useability of the new Alpha Legend pager. All members are encouraged to report non-performance, to ring the 1800 EAS Pager Help Line to resolve your paging issues.

Communications & Technology Joint Committee -2 Minute Briefing 

Issue 6, 11 August 2013

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 11/08/2013)

EAS PAGER REPLACEMENT PROGRAM UPDATE

Amy Ford from ESTA spoke to committee members on the pager roll outs that have been done for CFA, SES and AV.  Approximately 2/3 of pagers have been distributed, there have been a number of questions on functionality of the pagers rather than faults.

Approximately 30% of brigades have asked for extra training, as there was never an intention of a "drop and run" without any training.  ESTA and CFA will provide training as required to any member who requires this, brigades are encouraged to do this as a group and contact the EAS help desk.  ESTA encourages that any issues to be reported to the Brigade’s District Office or the EAS help desk.  There are four support ESTA staff to assist with support for pagers.  Need members to be comfortable to use the device, so please ask for support for further training.

ESTA are also after as much feedback to see if there are any faults, with planning for field trip to visit District to gather feedback. This method was deemed more effective that doing a survey. 

The Quick Reference User Guide information sheet that was distributed with the new pagers will also be sent as a poster to brigades.

EAS Help desk phone 1800 604 977

 

ESTA USER REFERENCE GROUP

At the request of VFBV, an EAS Pager User Reference Group will be established towards the end of the year to deal with a number of issues including; future pagers designs, the ongoing improvement of this new pager with programming and firmware upgrades and management and overview of issues and fault rectification with this new pager.  This group will also look at lessons learned from this pager roll out and what needs to be done with the end user in mind.  The group will be made up of volunteers and staff from all agencies.

 

LISTENING SETS

There have been two business cases put forward to CFA (one for streaming on the internet and one for a separate radio device).  VFBV is of a view that there is a need to have a range of solutions to cater for the situational awareness needs of all CFA members.  VFBV is awaiting the approval of the business cases and advice on how the solutions will be funded.

In anticipation of a ‘device styled solution’ CFA will soon call for expressions of interest from suppliers for digital listening sets (looking to have these fully programmed and possibly distributed from the manufacturer).

Following the decision to progress a suite of solutions, CFA will call for tenders from IT vendors for the live streaming and hardware supply.

 

OBSERVATION REPORTS

Information has been requested from the committee as to the details regarding progressing solutions as a result form brigades lodging paging and communications observation reports.  This is due to advice to VFBV that there is rarely any follow up to the brigade once the observation report is lodged.

CFA Officers have advised that the time frame for observation reports is Brigades are required to have them submitted within 60 days of the reported issue/incident and ESTA must have them completed within 60 days from their receiving them. Our Committee delegates sought to see how a decision was made in the follow up and ensure that this is done on each occasion.  The committee has also requested to see a summary of the observation reports tabled at each meeting.

 

CFA Volunteers are the unpaid professionals of our Emergency Services. VFBV is their united voice, and speaks on behalf of Victoria's 60,000 CFA Volunteers.

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