Here’s how SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) helps National Aerial Firefighting Centre keep on top of fast-moving emergency situations.
Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world. The country has a history of ferocious bushfire activity exacerbated by dry conditions and temperature spikes above 40°C (104°F) in warmer months. Left unchecked, they can spread quickly and result in devastating loss of life and property damage costing hundreds of millions of dollars. The National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) have been instrumental in assisting fire agencies in their role protecting communities and saving lives and property over past bushfire seasons, not just in Australia but New Zealand as well.
NAFC, a business unit of AFAC – the National Council for fire, emergency services and land management,provides a cooperative national arrangement for the provision of aerial firefighting resources. They coordinate the procurement of a fleet of highly specialized firefighting aircraft that are readily available for use by state and territory emergency service and land management agencies across Australia. Their fleet comprises approximately 150 contracted aircraft running from Large Air Tankers to helicopters and light fixed-wing aircraft.
With multiple agency bodies involved in combating the ever-present threat of bushfires, the ability to have a shared view of a fast-moving emergency situation and the resources available is essential to a well-formed response. NAFC plays a key role by managing the sharing of aerial firefighting resources between emergency service and land management agencies throughout Australia. They are also essential to the development of national protocols and systems for aerial firefighting, including one they built themselves called ARENA.
ARENA is a software solution to register how many firefighting aircraft there are in Australia and New Zealand. It is not only a registry, but also a complex aircraft management and awareness system. At any point in time, users can locate an aircraft, review its details, register whether it’s approved to work, whether it has a contract, and other crucial information. The states and territories can use this information to find the right aircraft at the right time, with the right capabilities and the right contract, and then dispatch it to a job. They can also manage and track what it’s doing on that job, where it’s picking up water and where it’s dropping water. At the end of the engagement, ARENA can produce a document that summarizes what the aircraft did, which gets turned into an invoice to be paid.
National contracts ensure that every aircraft in the NAFC fleet meets their terms and conditions, standards, and expectations. Every aircraft has the same standard features such as requirements for seatbelts, or flashing anti-collision lights, so a firefighting aircraft is recognised as a fit-for-purpose firefighting aircraft regardless of what state it’s in.
Working with SafetyCulture platform allowed NAFC to achieve collaboration and compliance across many complex, inter-jurisdictional, inter-agency relationships. By housing all checks and audits in a single platform, NAFC was able to create the opportunity for national consistency through collaboration on national templates.
Previously, checks were done on pen and paper, or in static documents, but using SafetyCulture platform ensures NAFC has common standards across the different states and territories, and a higher quality fleet ready for firefighting. Aircraft are checked before they go into service for firefighting by the operator in spring or early summer, and then again by the fire authority for compliance. There are also the ad hoc checks when issues arise, and location checks of airbases and helipads to make sure they are safe.
“We have a disparate number of stakeholders and that has been one of the challenges, getting them all involved. But it’s almost like SafetyCulture platform has made people want to do it. By giving them an efficient, structured environment to work in, it has removed the barriers. We’re not saying you must do this, but they want to do it. They have a tool and off they go.”
- Anthony Gallacher, Project Officer, National Projects and Innovation, NAFC
Previously, inspectors would go out to airbases to conduct checks with the assumption of error — looking to pick up on red flags and assuming aircrafts would fall short in some way. The use of SafetyCulture has provided the opportunity to flip that mentality. Now, they empower teams to ensure the aircraft are as good as they can be before someone can spot check for issues.
Daily checks help build best practice into every day routine. In doing so, SafetyCulture platform becomes a coaching tool where templates are purposefully designed for teams to learn best practice for improvement as they are completing inspections.
“If someone does an audit and they find something wrong, they’re not going to go and push the submit button, they’re gonna go fix it, record they’ve fixed it, and then submit. So the service got improved before we even knew about it. That’s the win for us.”
- Andrew Matthews, Manager Capability, NAFC
At the beginning of their SafetyCulture platform journey, teams were downloading the results of their SafetyCulture platform inspections as a PDF, going into ARENA, typing in some comments, and uploading that PDF.
The team at NAFC recognised there was a much easier way with SafetyCulture platform APIs. They worked with the SafetyCulture Team to enable API integrations, so at the completion of an inspection they simply click submit, and the inspection report is added to ARENA.
“At one stage they were storing audits on their shared drive, audits on their remote drive, some audits on their local computer, and someone else had some audits out back! Now they’re all in one spot, they’re all in ARENA, thanks to the integration with SafetyCulture platform.” – Anthony Gallacher, Project Officer, National Projects and Innovation, NAFC
This provides visibility of all SafetyCulture platform inspections done on an aircraft, who completed them, and when. Users can view the actual report from SafetyCulture platform in ARENA, showing all the results, comments, photos, and other inputs you would expect to see from an inspection in SafetyCulture platform. This also works in reverse; when someone opens an inspection in SafetyCulture platform, response sets enable users to pre-populate fields based on data from ARENA.
This integration was a game changer for NAFC. Aerial firefighting teams often work under time constraints and it is critical to reduce any barriers for people to complete their inspections.
“SafetyCulture platform helps us know the aircraft is ready to go firefighting before it needs to go firefighting because when there’s a fire it’s too late to check. We need to check first, and SafetyCulture is helping us do that. Safety, effectiveness, efficiency, and compliance, it helps us with all those things.”
- Andrew Matthews, Manager Capability, NAFC
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