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Technology update #2
On Friday 4 January we were aware that the response time of the CFA website was running inadequately. This was clearly not good enough and did not meet community information needs. Our initial investigations showed that up to 85 per cent of our 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) network bandwidth was being consumed when it would normally be used at 10 to 15 per cent capacity. The bandwidth was quickly increased twice to 500Mbps, however this did not solve the problem.
It was soon identified that the most recent version of the FireReady App was the most likely cause of the increased data consumption. The FireReady App alone was using 350Mbps per second of our available 500Mbps. Given the extreme and severe weather conditions across the state on Friday, the number of App users increased quickly throughout the day which placed unsustainable demands on CFA's bandwidth storage.
As part of CFA's business continuity plan and in order to stabilise the performance of the website, DSE accommodated the CFA website traffic on Friday night using their new 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) bandwidth - acquired for this purpose. This allowed CFA servers to maintain traffic for the FireReady App only.
Since early Saturday morning, the CFA website has been separated from the bandwidth impacts of the FireReady App and has worked effectively while using DSE servers. However, the use of DSE's bandwith as a backup is only an interim solution and we have continued to work with the App developer to resolve the underlying issues.
Given the increasing public reliance on the FireReady App, of which there are now over 200,000 users, we recognise the value of the App to our communities and are working to resolve the issue by boosting the capacity of our server. By this Friday, the CFA server capacity will be increased to 1Gbps - a tenfold increase since last Friday and over and above the increased capacity since Black Saturday. There is also potential to increase the server capacity again by another 1Gbps and we are currently looking into this.
The demand for information on days of high fire danger is of utmost importance and the problems experienced with the CFA website and FireReady App were disappointing for us all. As CEO of CFA I am leading the project team working to ensure the ongoing efficiency of the FireReady App and the CFA website. A review of the functionality and operation of the FireReady App and CFA website is currently underway for the CFA Board.
As I mentioned in my previous update, we must not let these technology issues detract from the fact that our members, both firefighters and support staff, are continuing to do an exceptional job in the field protecting the lives and property of all Victorians. Thank you for all of your efforts responding to and suppressing the many grass fires that have occurred over the last two weeks. Fire activity is already high and we know that there is still a busy season ahead.
We are extremely grateful for the support of DSE and we thank them for their assistance at this time.
We also thank Parks Victoria, Department of Health and many other partner agencies who contributed to a good outcome for Victorians under the extreme weather conditions.
It is important to remind members of the community not to rely on just one source of information. Listen to our emergency broadcasters, including local radio stations, ABC radio and SKY NEWS, use CFA social media channels such as Facebook (/cfavic) and Twitter (CFA_Updates) which we are using extensively to provide up-to-date information, and call the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667.