Australia — Victoria’s troubled fire alert system is already causing headaches before the bushfire season has even started, with nearly half a million people incorrectly sent bushfire danger alerts.
On Sunday, people with the Fire Ready app more than 450,000 received extreme and code red fire warnings despite the weather being wet and cool.
Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the error occured when test data for the new app, to be released later this month, was incorrectly loaded onto the live system.
This meant warnings were sent, notices were posted on the Country Fire Authority’s website and as updates on new digital warning signs in country towns.
He apologised for the mistake, which is being blamed on human error, but assured the public the new app would provide the best information once it launched.
“This should not have happened. It was very unfortunate that the testing environment was available to everyone,” Mr Lapsley said.
The CFA was quick at the weekend to calm the public, via social media and its website, that warnings were sent in error.
The most recent complaints come after a myriad of problems last summer with similar apps. The state opposition and the firefighters’ union have seized on Sunday’s mistake, saying the public must have confidence in the information being sent to them.
United Firefighters Union secretary Peter Marshall said it was vitally important that people had faith in information.
“The government is simply not taking the safety of Victorians seriously. How many times do they have to be told that the Bushfire Royal Commission recommendations have to be implemented now, not when they get around to it,” Mr Marshall said.
“Either they are incompetent or they simply don’t care; Victorians deserve better, otherwise we are going to have another situation where we could potentially lose 173 lives, destroy 2000 homes and devastate communities in Victoria.”
Opposition bushfire response spokeswoman Jacinta Allan said communities, especially those in high bushfire risk areas, had to have faith in accurate warnings being provided to them, particularly after failing of information last summer.
“This is further evidence that the Napthine government budget cuts inflicted on the CFA are really stretching resources,” Ms Allan said.
“It is absolutely crucial that high bushfire risk communities are able to rely on the information that is being provided by the technology the government is urging communities to take up.”
Emergency Services Minister Kim Wells rejected claims from Labor and the union about cuts to funding and the fact Victoria was unprepared for the upcoming fire season saying the former government oversaw the worst fires in Australias history.
“New technologies will revolutionise the way we get information to Victorians in emergencies. A lot of work is being done to ensure the integrity of those systems, but human error let us down over the weekend and I have made it clear this is not acceptable, Mr Wells said.
“The previous Labor Government not only oversaw the worst bushfires in the nation’s history, it then refused to accept all the recommendations of the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission.”