App failure left scared people vulnerable

As temperatures soared across South Australia over the weekend, fires started around the state from the Fleurieu Peninsula to the South East.

Eyre Peninsula was lucky not to see any major fires – this time – but the region has been in the same unenviable situation as many of these communities before.

As a media outlet, bushfire advice and warning messages regularly popped up in the Port Lincoln Times email inbox all day Saturday and Sunday.

Unfortunately for many people in the affected areas who were relying on the state government approved emergency update app Alert SA, their feed of information was not so reliable.

The app failed on Saturday leaving users looking elsewhere for emergency information.

This failure followed a previous failure in late October, on one of the first bushfire risk days of the 2017/18 season.

The promise was that it would be fixed in time for the peak bushfire season but in the catastrophic conditions that faced SA at the weekend the app again failed to provide updates on bushfire information prompting the government to withdraw its support for the app.

Being in the vicinity of a bushfre can be very scary and having limited information available about what is happening lifts tension even higher.

This was demonstrated on Lower Eyre Peninsula during the three-day power blackout when phones also went down for some of the time.

The lack of communication heightened what was already an intense situation.

At the time of the Wangary bushfire there was nothing like the Alert SA or similar apps to warn people but these days technology has made possible this extra early warning system, which can provide peace of mind and give people more information to make the best and safest decisions.

Following the failure, the state government has said it will work on a new mobile solution controlled by emergency services that will be focused on “robustness”. 

In the meantime, state Emergency Services Minister Chris Picton has encouraged people to use traditional emergency information providers including the CFS website, social media, ABC radio alerts and the Bushfire Information hotline in the event of an emergency.