About six months ago, I installed an app on my phone called EmergencyAus. It’s supposed to provide an up-to-date list of every event, of any sort, that happens in Victoria.
More importantly, the app also allows me to set a 5 km watch zone around my house. In theory, if anything happens within that watch zone, an alert is sent to my phone.
Despite not being obsessed with ringtones, I set a special one, just for those alerts, and for a while there, I jumped every time I heard it go off. I’d grab my phone and feverishly tap the little red indicator to see what was happening.
But then an odd thing began to happen – I started to relax. I’d still check every warning about trees down, or accidents, or the odd fire, but I was no longer a mumbling mess. You see I was starting to trust that the app would give me that little bit of advanced warning no one got on Black Saturday.
The events of Black Saturday have dimmed in the consciousness of the general public, but for me, every summer since has been a repeat of the controlled terror I felt that day. Not because I’m terrified of the fire itself, but because I’m terrified of not knowing.
You see, that was the worst thing about Black Saturday for me, the not knowing. I sat here with the fire shutters down, eyes glued to the CFA website, with 774 blaring in the background, completely unaware that people were burning just up the road in St Andrews and Strathewen. I didn’t learn about those deaths until the next day. Only then did it become obvious that the authorities had not had a clue where the fire was, or where it was going. And because they did not know, no one received the kind of warning that might have saved lives.
The EmergencyAus app promised to provide the advanced warning we did not get on Black Saturday. And as I began to trust the app, I started to relax. I even began writing again because I could listen to my own music, instead of listening to cricket commentary on radio 774.
But that all ended this morning. The phone is still sitting on my desk, but I no longer trust it, or the EmergencyAus app.
Why? Because I checked the emergency.vic.gov.au website this morning, and discovered that a bushfire has been burning 4.7 km from my home since about 5 pm yesterday and I knew nothing about it.
The bushfire is in parkland to the west of me, and is listed as ‘under control’, but I’m still devastated. Why did I receive no warning? Did I simply miss it?
I checked back through all the notifications on my phone, and nope, no warning about that fire. Then I checked the app’s event list and yes, the fire did appear there. So why did I get no warning? And how many others have I missed?
I’ve emailed the company about this ‘problem’, but I don’t expect an answer any time soon. And I don’t expect to be reassured when I do receive one; computer glitches that mess with your work are one thing, glitches like this one are potentially life threatening.
I’ll update this post as soon as I receive a reply from the EmergencyAus company, but in the meantime, can anyone recommend another app that does the same thing, but better?
Oh, and it’s New Year’s Eve morning here in Australia so… Happy New Year in advance.