As SA contended with catastrophic bushfire conditions at the weekend, the state government’s Alert SA app again failed to withstand the test.
It follows the app’s previous failure in late October, on one of the first bushfire risk days of the season.
Emergency Services Minister Chris Picton had promised the app would be fixed ahead of the peak bushfire period.
However, following a meeting with Ripe Intelligence, the app provider, on Sunday, Mr Picton said he was not satisfied the failure would not be repeated.
“I am not satisfied, after meeting with Ripe Intelligence that the failure experienced (on Saturday) won’t be repeated and I and our emergency services have lost confidence in this app to provide the 99.9 per cent reliability as is stipulated in our contract,” he said.
“We therefore ask South Australians to not rely on the Alert SA app and utilise our traditional sources of information including the CFS website, emergency services social media pages, the Emergency Alert system, the Bushfire Information Hotline and ABC radio alerts through a battery powered radio.”
Mr Picton reiterated South Australians should use multiple sources of information to receive the latest updates on incidents and conditions.
“This includes the Alert SA website, the CFS website, CFS social media, ABC local radio and the bushfire hotline on 1300 362 361,” he said.
“The best way to ensure you have constant access to information is to have a battery powered radio.”
Opposition emergency services spokesperson and Schubert MP Stephan Knoll said the app had failed to deliver at a time when South Australians needed it most.
“On catastrophic fire danger conditions like (Saturday), our thoughts are with those selfless volunteers and wokers out in the field keeping us safe.
“We implore all South Australians to stay safe and follow the advice from our emergency services.”
A review conducted into the October Alert SA app failure did to rule out further issues into the future.
“The government has failed to heed the warnings of the previous app failure and associated review and this has left us in a chaotic and unprepared position right in the middle of the bushfire season,” Mr Knoll said.
“The government needs to find ways to contact everyone that has downloaded the app to alert them to the fact that the app should no longer be used.
“South Australians have come to rely on the app to provide them with timely and reliable information and without notification many will continue to use the app.”
Local users first noticed the app’s failure to load early on Saturday morning, with Facebook community groups and the Alert SA Facebook page soon awash with complaints.
“Surprise!! AlertSA app stops working on a 43 degree day with wind,” one Facebook user wrote.
“Deactivate your app, it does this constantly and is useless. We’re now on CFS page trying to see where the fire near our towns is. At least that works.”
The Alert SA Facebook page has removed the ability for users to post directly to the page, however many residents have taken to the comments sections of previous posts – the most recent published on December 17, 2017.
However page administrators have failed to provide any response thus far.
Some users have also reported issues via the app’s email support, with little more success.
The Alert SA response advises “there has been a technical issue experienced today what has resulted in intermittent issues. This has been reported to our service provider for immediate rectification.”
The Alert SA app costs the state government $250,000 a year.
The state government will now work on a new mobile solution that will be controlled by emergency services and be focused on robustness.
To keep up to date with the latest CFS incidents, go to cfs.sa.gov.au.