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The Disaster Watch disaster

By johnboy - 13 December 2011 10

disaster watch

Last week the outgoing Attorney-General Robert McClelland launched something new from our government.

An app. As in software for smartphones.

Having stuck their toe in the appy water no doubt we’ll have a string of app related offerings from a variety of departments around town.

What better way to wangle a long lunch than to be handing out contracts for something as modish as an app to get the Minister on TV when she launches it?

But what does it do?

Well basically it’s two things:

    — An RSS reader of feeds from the Bureau of Meteorology and various emergency services.

    — A repository of generic emergency advice which no doubt is already online and could as easily be put into a pdf

There is a little bit of cleverness with being able to share feed items on social networks. But hopes of the message going viral get a little lame when they lack any information:

disasterwatch tweet

What it doesn’t do, however, is provide alerts.

Most people would not mind at all if their phone, every half hour, made a quick check of its position and briefly enquired of the Government if there was anything to be concerned about in the area, with an ensuing notification should a positive result come up.

As long as it can be turned off in the settings most of us wouldn’t mind a full blown alarm requiring intervention to turn off.

Some people will flip out completely at the thought of providing the Government a constant update of their whereabouts, but those can surely have an option to just provide a postcode. Or not use it at all.

As it is the ACT feed is full of warnings about, by way of example, flooding in the Culgoa river. I had to look that up. It joins the Darling literally at the back of Bourke.

So it all seems rather pointless.

What would be useful would be a disaster alert with a scale of privacy settings.

Failing that of all the things government spend money on having a team edit the raw data into postcode specific, and relevant, chunks would help a lot.

What’s Your opinion?


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10 Responses to
The Disaster Watch disaster
Skidbladnir 9:33 am 15 Dec 11

You can already get the ACT ESA’s RSS feed (and others) direct to your phone.

This would be one of those “developer built to requirements but the spec was horrible” occasions that Government are so good at.

bystander_effect 10:22 pm 14 Dec 11

So the government will never/should never be great at making these kind of apps. And there are plenty of not-for-profits, students, and businesses with vested interests in mashing up these sort of things if the data were readily available.

Google crisis response. Public toilet geospatial mapping. Google transit. The data is funded by the public purse and (subject to privacy laws) should be readily available to the public.

http://data.gov.au/. The only stuff I see from AG’s there is about the location of legal services. By golly, if AG’s is managing a bunch of disaster info, get it out there and keep it updated!

ivyclimbsalot 8:42 pm 13 Dec 11

p1 said :

There is a NSW RFS app called “Fires Near Me” which shows all incidents currently reported by the NSW RFS, and will tell you if there is anything within 50kms of you. Not an alert, but still pretty handy if you smell smoke and wonder what is happening.

Shame this emergency app couldn’t be a spatial thing.

+3000. wonder how much was spent developing a substandard product …

steveu 6:00 pm 13 Dec 11

Henry82 said :

if only we had some kind of emergency sms system….

…like the cell broadcast facility thats built into mobile phone networks…

Henry82 4:27 pm 13 Dec 11

if only we had some kind of emergency sms system….

Rawhide Kid Part3 4:14 pm 13 Dec 11

p1 said :

There is a NSW RFS app called “Fires Near Me” which shows all incidents currently reported by the NSW RFS, and will tell you if there is anything within 50kms of you. Not an alert, but still pretty handy if you smell smoke and wonder what is happening.

Shame this emergency app couldn’t be a spatial thing.

+1

p1 4:00 pm 13 Dec 11

There is a NSW RFS app called “Fires Near Me” which shows all incidents currently reported by the NSW RFS, and will tell you if there is anything within 50kms of you. Not an alert, but still pretty handy if you smell smoke and wonder what is happening.

Shame this emergency app couldn’t be a spatial thing.

Jivrashia 3:47 pm 13 Dec 11

dey prolly shld stik wid chrch bells

Rawhide Kid Part3 3:44 pm 13 Dec 11

I think your getting the Culgoa river flood warning as I think BOM has incorporated ACT with NSW. Still your right. This should be Postcode specific for it to be any relevance to users.

Gungahlin Al 2:49 pm 13 Dec 11

Meh. My Pocket Weather app already does the alerts fine, has locational smarts, and does a bunch of other daily useful stuff – like weather…

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