The NIFRS serves the entire population of Northern Ireland (approximately 1.7 million) and an area of over 5500 square miles
Supporting the specification, sourcing and implementation of a mobile data system for 150 appliances and 75 fire stations.
The problem that Northern Ireland’s Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) encountered was a straightforward one, one that many departments and organisations will have faced in the digital age. Previously relying on paper-based measures for firefighters and its regional control centre, they were in need of a new mobile data system capable of receiving up to the minute information on-site at incidents and events.
Having already produced a business case for the new system which was approved by both the NIFRS and the Irish government, we were recommissioned to support the specification, procurement and implementation of the new system.
Our consultants are experts in the procurement and implementation of IT solutions, developing a bespoke and formal project methodology covering four essential stages of the project: project initiation, requirements specification development, procurement and tender evaluation, and finally, implementation.
A statement of requirements for the mobile data system was obtained through a series of interviews and workshops with key operational, IT and communications staff. The exercise revealed a need for an automatic vehicle location system, as well as fire station based wireless local-area networks set up to receive regular updates of risks, procedural changes and so on. Our specification included accreditation and installation of the system as well, ensuring that the system would meet our understandably stringent standards for emergency service communications.
We then prepared an advertisement for the Official Journal of the European Union, as well as a prequalification questionnaire and appropriate evaluation methodology before creating an invitation to tender procurement documentation – all of which allow a formal restricted procurement process to take place. Working with the NIFRS project team, we evaluated 14 prequalification questionnaire responses, as well as the full invitation to tender responses from four suppliers before selecting a preferred supplier.
Following the award of the contract, we then worked with the contractor as well as the NIFRS to support the implementation stage of the project, starting by reviewing the contractor’s functional design specification and then assisting with the development of a comprehensive strategy for rolling the system out – one that included progress monitoring measures to ensure the timely delivery of the project.
In addition, we provided independent technical assurance to ensure that the systems were fully and securely integrated into existing NIFRS networks and information systems. Our lead consultant assisted the NIFRS project management team, dealing with stakeholders, aiding with the management of risk and issue registers then implementing appropriate training programmes to temper the factors raised.
The solution received security accreditation from the Police Service of Northern Ireland to operate over its TETRA digital radio infrastructure, making use of its packet data service in the process.
A successful pilot of the mobile data system in Belfast resulted in the project being given the go-ahead to be fully implemented across 150 appliances based in 75 fire stations.