Locals’ thumbs down to fire app

THE state government’s FireReady app has been given the thumbs down by locals, as fires continue to burn across the region.

On the Gippsland Times Facebook page we asked if the app was living up to expectations, and we were inundated with responses.

Many said they had deleted the app after a couple of days, most people describing it as slow, confusing, inaccurate and not user-friendly.

Many said they reverted to television, radio and internet updates to stay informed.

Melissa Tatterson said the app could be confusing.

“I’d get a notification of an update but then there’d be no new info once I checked in,” she said.

“Also found that some fires were listed up to three times as separate incidents.

“Definitely could be far more user friendly and needs improvement, especially if the government is spruiking this as a reliable and recommended source.”

Kelly Cairns said the app was wonderful last year, but the update this year made it slow and much more difficult to navigate through to get the same information.

Rita Palm said she had deleted it.

“Alerts every two minutes and it got confusing … didn’t know whether to stay or go,” she said.

Kylie Castles said it sent her husband about 40 notifications in 30 minutes and became annoying.

Rachel Rudd said the app was slow and maps did not show enough information as to where fires were.

“I set up perimeter so it would alert me to fires within a 30km radius and I was beeping all day and night from fires Melbourne way,” she said.

“Was very slow to load and just not enough info … I took the app off after a week.”

Jess Gell said she was disappointed with the update.

“Last year it was wonderful as we are on the Seaton Rd and it was very accurate last year with the fires coming.

“This year it’s been very hit and miss.

“I set up my watch zone etc, and have gotten updates and warnings all over the place, but didn’t get the one that reported a fire 1km from me!”

The Gippsland Times contac ted the Fire Commissioner’s office about the issue and was immediately directed to its website’s ‘frequently asked questions page’ and offered the suggestion people could turn their phones off or switch them to silent if the constant beeping was annoying them.

“Changing the sounds of notifications for each level of warning, for example, adds in another layer of complexity and we want community members to be able to pay attention to the range of information coming through, especially the warnings which include Advice messages, Watch and Act and Emergency Warnings.

“Each of these warnings will have information in them that could be important for users,” a Fire Commissioner’s office spokesperson said.

“If people chose to only pay attention to a notification which tells them there is an Emergency Warning or a Recommendation to Evacuate, that could be too late for people to make a decision about what they will do to keep themselves safe.”

The spokesperson said people should be paying close attention to advice messages so they could best monitor changing conditions.

“Much of the feedback we are getting indicates that people want to know when an incident occurs, even before a warning is issued, as it gives them an indication within their community that something is happening they may want to know about.

“We can’t apologise for providing too much information to the community given the ongoing fire conditions,” the spokesperson said, adding that last weekend’s widespread fire activity meant a lot of information was being disseminated through the app.

“We are always happy to hear community feedback on ways to improve the app, but the idea of the app is to provide timely, tailored and relevant information to people based on their watch zones so they can make decisions about their own safety,” the spokesperson said.

“The new app has been downloaded 540,303 times since launched in mid-December but it is not the only tool the community should use for emergency information.

“Warnings are also broadcast through emergency broadcasters on radio, television and online through the VicEmergency website.

“No-one should rely on only one source of information for emergency warnings,” the spokesperson said.