AA Radio delivers major installation project for Country Fire Authority, Victoria.
The Country Fire Authority (CFA) is one of the largest volunteer based emergency management organizations in the world and has been fighting fires and protecting Victorian communities since its inception in 1945.
With over 57,000 members predominantly volunteers, spread throughout 1,220 brigades across a landmass equivalent in area to the United Kingdom, the process of engagement with CFA on a major installation project is a challenging and complex task.
In July 2010, Tait Communications was awarded a significant contract by CFA to upgrade its critical statewide radio system to a P25 digital-ready platform. This included the supply and installation of over 9,000 customised mobile terminals and portables with in-vehicle chargers.
To manage the installation of radio equipment into thousands of CFA’s vehicles and appliances, Tait turned to AA Radio, thanks to our industry reputation, proven performance in project delivery and experienced local resources.
Dan Quagliani, System and Projects Manager for AA Radio describes the roll out of the CFA Radio Replacement Project. “From the outset we realized that apart from the sheer size and scale of the task, there were other major factors that would need to be addressed. Whilst CFA is largely a volunteer organization, its sphere of operations would range from major urban areas through to a single shed hundreds of kilometres from the city.”
“Many considerations were taken into account when planning the state-wide project such as the wide variety of fire fighting appliances to be installed, over 57 different vehicle types and variations in manufacturer and the age of those vehicles.” he said.
Local seasonal factors such as crop sowing in northern Victoria and holiday periods at coastal locations would affect the coordination of the installation teams. Seasonal factors also affected the CFA members’ availability to make vehicles and appliances available at fire stations.
Personal limitations of CFA members such as their work or family commitments also meant that vehicle access would not always be possible and that flexible working hours may be required to accommodate these circumstances.
There was close coordination between AA Radio, CFA and Tait Communications project teams to strike an optimal installation schedule following member training. “CFA has always had difficulty ‘touching’ every radio in its fleet with any sort of software or firmware upgrade, and it’s been an extraordinarily difficult and complex process to achieve that this time too. With 57,000 members to train, 1220 fire brigades to be visited, 5,000 portable radios to be delivered and 4,000 mobile radios to be installed across 57 different types of vehicles, I think the Tait Communications and AA Radio roll-out has been an extraordinary success.” said Doug Booth, CFA’s Project Director.
The fire danger period represented the most significant risk to installations; this required careful planning to minimize the likelihood of appliances being unavailable during a fire call out; careful planning was also required to make sure installations did not affect the readiness of brigades and that they remained available for any and all emergencies.
In addition to these challenges, all parties faced additional, unforseen issues, which would emerge as the project began.
Over fifteen years had elapsed since the installation of the incumbent radio system and equipment. In this time, the technology in both radio equipment and vehicles had changed significantly. This required adjustments to the technical scope of works and requirements.
Many CFA members who had experienced the original rollout had moved on and been replaced with new members. Coordinating up to date CFA member contacts and access to vehicles was an ongoing precursor to all rolling installation schedules.
Early in the project, some hardware and software enhancements were added to the product and this put significant pressure on the committed schedules, resourcing and travel plans of AA Radio’s installation crews. “CFA had a number of enhancements it was seeking; important end-user benefits for the portable radios and those vehicles that have two mobiles installed. In addition to that, we had a range of other functional changes that we needed and Tait was able to deliver those in a very tight time frame. Once delivered we had the products tested to ensure the new features were implemented correctly – the installation was then very smooth sailing for us.” says Doug Booth.
One of AA Radio’s first priority tasks was the establishment of a formal project management structure to continually engage with the Tait Communications project team. This ensured there were regular communications with the Tait and CFA teams so that critical issues were addressed without delay. This structure was essential to maintain project control, but had to be flexible to accommodate unforeseen changes to both scope and operations.
A key outcome of this structure was the ability for AA Radio to interact directly with CFA on operational matters while referring other issues to Tait for resolution. This required a great deal of trust and interaction from all parties and was a major factor in the success of the project.
Another key priority for AA Radio was the establishment of a dedicated project office & warehouse/staging area where equipment from Tait could be built into field kits for loading into the installation team vehicles in accordance with the scheduled week of works. Returning crews would unload old equipment, collect relevant documentation, attend de-briefs with project staff and re-load equipment for the next week’s mobilisation.
A team of in-house dedicated resources supported the field crews with the objective of scheduling work, arranging accommodation, consumable material supplies and keeping them up to the run rate required.
Staff were recruited for the project and trained initially at AA Radio under the supervision of key workshop personnel before Testing and Accreditation by CFA. This meant every two-person team had a CFA Accredited Installer at any location for sign-off on the completed installation. Quality Assurance was conducted by AA Radio inspections and in conjunction with the overall Tait Quality Assurance inspection regime.
Dan Quagliani commented, “For the installation teams, the work was physically demanding, and we knew that spending a full week away from home was difficult, especially for people with young families. We therefore ensured we had enough trained personnel available to rotate through the project regularly to cover for any sickness or leave of absence.”
Tait Communications Program Manager Mr Terry Robinson stated, “We were very pleased with the commitment, professionalism and quality of the work performed by AA Radio. Their ability to communicate effectively and work closely with our project team was a major factor in the success of the project. Despite the many challenges that presented themselves, they overcame them and met the delivery and quality goals needed. Their achievement in a large and complex undertaking such as this was outstanding.”
AA AA Radio’s role in this important project will help deliver safer outcomes for communities throughout regional Victoria. Our five installation teams travelled in excess of 240,000km over 20 months to install almost 4,000 transceivers and 2,800 in-vehicle chargers into more than 3,600 vehicles and specialized appliances. A further 5,000 portables and 3,000 chargers were deployed throughout the regions.
A project task and outcome appreciated by Doug Booth, Project Director for Country Fire Authority, “Over the past 20 months, AA Radio and Tait Communications have worked together closely to manage multiple installation teams across all of Victoria, with radios installed in a wide range of vehicle types. Working to a tight timetable, AA Radio demonstrated a strong commitment to meeting installation milestones while maintaining compliance with rigorous installation standards. They took accountability for their work and showed a willingness to work together constructively to resolve issues to deliver what has been a massive logistical undertaking. CFA warmly recognises and affirms the key contribution made by AA Radio to the overall success of its Radio Replacement Project.”July 3, 2012 1:27 am
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