So I put the new fire app on my phone about a month ago, and boy, the updates! Every time I look at the phone I get all this information pushed at me – hazardous material in Brunswick, ‘other’ in Parkville (no idea what that’s meant to mean – maybe cat up tree?), fire in North Melbourne. Of course, a lot of these so-called fires are a little disappointing – not much more than false alarms – but they still get entered into the database and pumped out to everyone in the watchzone.
(To be honest, I don’t care about hazardous material any more, and I’ve changed my watchzones down to pretty small, cos with fires you really want them local. Mordialloc, you no longer rate!)
But it’s really amazing how many fires there are in Victoria on a high fire danger day – maybe 1000, and 400 of them serious enough. It certainly makes you appreciate the fireys. Gotta love those guys! But I do wonder about how good the alert mechanism is. The other day I was in the country, and you could literally see the smoke over Glenlyon. Sure enough the message came through – fire at Glenlyon. But when I went to the watchzone for details, there weren’t any. Why would they send a push message without the details? Indeed there were push messages about fires all the way up the road – Drummond, Malmsbury – but no details, and by the time we got there, nothing to see.
So I was extremely curious to find out exactly how good the app information was. How long does it take between the fire starting and the push notification being sent?
The first fire I set was a piddling little thing in Ascot Vale – a rubbish bin on a street corner. I made sure there was plenty of paper in the bin before I threw the butt in. No, it wasn’t a total fire ban day! I’m not irresponsible! Anyway it took no time for a passer-by to notice and phone 000. (Don’t worry, I was watching from the window of a nearby cafe, perfectly safe.) The fire truck arrived within 5 minutes, but what I really wanted to know about was the app.
My fire never made it onto the app. You can imagine how disappointed I was.
Next time I found a pile of rubbish in West Brunswick, on a building site – mixed paper, drink cans and rubble. It took longer to get it going, and longer for people to notice, but by the time they called 000, it was quite the inferno. Three fire trucks arrived, and it made it to the app, 14 minutes after I lit the thing and 2 minutes after the first truck.
It was a bit difficult to see how long it took to extinguish because I had to hide, and so I wasn’t able to take very good photos. But I thought the fireys did a really good job, and the app worked pretty well this time.
But unfortunately I do have to conclude that the app is unreliable. The bigger the fire, I figure the more reliable it gets – so maybe it’s not such a big deal. But on top of the other inconsistencies – confusing messages, and the fact that sometimes the warnings don’t come through until well after they’ve been on other media – on top of the installation difficulties that people have reported – Fire Ready is rather problematic. The info needs to be totally reliable, and its not. 75% right is not right enough when its a disaster.