Weather bureau seeks crisis communications system

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Weather bureau seeks crisis communications system

Hosted service to deliver web, SMS and email messages.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) is seeking a managed, hosted internal crisis communications system, to support its ability to respond to disruptions caused by severe weather events or data centre failures.

Tender documents issued last week indicated that the bureau had decided to upgrade its internal systems after a number of "high impact events" since January 2010 -- such as severe bushfires in Victoria and South Australia, and the Queensland floods between December 2010 and January 2011.

The bureau called for a supplier to implement, host, manage and provide support for the system, which would deliver web, email, SMS and voice messages to and from bureau staff during:

  • severe weather events, such as when bureau stations needed to be evacuated at any location in Australia;
  • localised events, such as fires affecting the bureau's data centre; and
  • as a substitute system when other critical communication systems failed.

The call for tender came after the bureau won $4.8 million from the 2012-13 Federal Budget to upgrade its capacity to respond to extreme weather and natural disasters affecting regional communities.

The bureau required a system that would be available at least 99.99 percent of the time, thus allowing for a maximum of 53 minutes of downtime a year. However, it preferred an availability of at least 99.999 percent.

All hardware, software and data storage was to be located on shore, with data held and backed up on highly secure servers.

The bureau expected up to 12 of its internal administrators to access the system to create lists, templates and groups without intervention by the vendor.

Administrators required access to the system through "any device" and "any browser", with tender documents indicating that bureau staff tended to use Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) and Mozilla Firefox 2.x on Windows and Apple's Mac OS.

The bureau also called for the establishment of a single 13, 1300 or 1800 telephone number through which administrators could investigate any alerts or activations.

When activated, the crisis communications system needed to deliver messages to mobile devices across the bureau by voice, SMS or email.

The bureau preferred a system that featured automatic workflow capabilities, allowing it to automatically update staff contact details regularly, either through polling or email notifications.

The request for tender closed on September 24, with the contract expected to span three years from December 2012.

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