Technology protecting lives, property, and the environment

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Emergency workforce rostering for incident responders that automates secure system and resource allocation in rapidly evolving situations.

Client

NSW Rural Fire Service

Sector

Emergency ServicesPublic Sector

Timeframe

12 Months

Technology Themes

Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud-Native Development Identity and Access Management (IdAM)

Highlights

  • Agile Digital created the award-winning secure online rostering and resource management solution used by the NSW RFS.
  • The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) is the lead fire combat emergency service organisation in NSW, with the largest volunteer fire fighting force in the world.
  • This solution, PRAS, was recognised in 2023 by the AIIA as Government & Public Sector Solution of the Year in NSW and merited as finalist at the National iAwards.
  • This emergency workforce solution automatically provisions and de-provisions access to required systems for Incident Management Team (IMT) members based on their emergency response shift allocation.
  • NSW RFS uses this rostering and cybersecurity platform to ensure the right access at the right time to operational systems for its volunteers and staff during emergency response.
  • NSW RFS now relies on this high-stakes Identity and Access Management (IdAM) solution to support their geographically diverse fire combat workforce, including over 70,000 volunteers.

About the NSW Rural Fire Service

For over 100 years New South Wales Rural Fire Service has played a major role in the history and landscape of NSW. The NSW RFS is the largest volunteer-based fire combat service in the world.

The NSW RFS is responsible for fire protection across 95% of the land area of New South Wales and is the statutory agency to lead bushfire response. They respond to many other emergencies, as well as providing lifesaving preventative advice to local communities.

Background

Bushfires like the catastrophic 2019/20 ‘Black Summer’ fires are growing more dynamic and dangerous in the face of climate change. The Black Summer fires claimed the lives of 33 people and an estimated 3 billion animals (including 100,000 livestock), destroyed 3,000 homes, and burned over 12 million hectares of land.

As front-line responders to bushfires and other rapidly evolving natural disasters, the NSW RFS faces major challenges in safely managing personnel teams and enabling systems access during emergency incident response.

The nature of emergency response required the NSW RFS to effectively manage staff, volunteers, other emergency services agencies, and local government personnel in real-time. They needed to adapt team size, composition, and authority dynamically and ensure access to lifesaving resources precisely when they were needed.

Mission

The Personnel & Role Assignment Solution (PRAS) is a digital innovation implemented to combat increasing bushfire risks to life and property in NSW. This solution was conceived to enable the NSW RFS to safely and securely assure that during emergency response the members of this volunteer-based workforce have the appropriate access to the right systems, at the right time.

Approach

The PRAS solution was co-designed with RFS operational staff, ensuring a user-centric approach at each step of the development process. It enables Incident Management Teams (IMTs) and RFS Operations Centres to perform their duties more efficiently, with a digital experience that works the way emergency responders need.

This solution guarantees that the appropriate personnel can be deployed to the correct location, at the right time, and with proper access to lifesaving equipment. Its design helps ensure that both volunteers and staff can protect life and property without compromising their own health and safety.

Development of PRAS is ongoing, incorporating industry-leading practices such as automated code pipelines for continuous integration and deployment, complemented by robust code review processes and automated testing.

Outcome

PRAS was developed and launched in preparation for Australia’s 2022/23 fire season. Since launch, this platform has served a critical role in supporting NSW RFS’s fire combat operations. Most importantly, this system has:

Optimised Emergency Response – By tasking volunteers with appropriate system access during incident attendance moments, PRAS has enabled faster response times and more effective communication to members of their roles in incident management teams.

Enhanced Volunteer Management – As the NSW RFS is volunteer-based, it needs to keep track of its members’ commitments to combating bushfires and manage their fatigue.

Improved Cyber Security – Given the increasing use of technology by the NSW RFS in combating bushfires, it’s crucial that online resources are only available to authorised personnel when needed. PRAS’s role-based access control mechanism has helped ensure that only members with assigned roles have access to key firefighting systems.

During its first fire season the PRAS solution:

  • successfully automated the creation of more than 5,000 shifts for Incident Management Team members attending fires and other emergencies in NSW.
  • provisioned team member rosters and access management for teams that formed and dispersed for shifts as short as 1-hour.
  • orchestrated over 200,000 system access events, eliminating the need for manual user access provisioning.
  • facilitated compliance with Australasian Inter-service Incident Management System (AIIMS), the gold standard for incident management in Australasia.

“The power of ensuring every end user has the right ICT permissions and access to systems – immediately once they are on site – is not only a game changer, but an extensive resource saver for the NSW RFS.”

NSW RFS - Supervisor (Fire Investigation & Compliance Unit)