The 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission identified deficiencies in the online distribution of bushfire information by the Victorian Government. Some media reports indicate that the CFA web site failed yesterday.
Any ICT professional involved with bushfire web sites must be aware that they have ethical as well as legal obligations to ensure that the systems they provide are operating correctly. Arguing that the web site is not essential and that citizens can get information from radio or other sources is not a valid defence, nor is arguing that they do not have sufficient resources, nor that they did not have the authority, or were ordered not to fix the flaws in the system. Professionals are required to act in the public interest, regardless.
The design of web sites for emergency use, including in bushfires is not a new field and there are some established approaches. I outlined some of these, along with methods of using the web for investigations, for the staff of the Victorian bushfire inquiry:
Role of ICT in Emergency Management
- Wireless Internet for Emergencies, for the Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute, Bogazici University, Turkey, and MobileMonday Global Summit, May 2008, WCIT2008, Kuala Lumpur
- Emergency Web Site Design, 23 January 2003
- Dealing with Disaster - Using new Networking Technology for Emergency Coordination
- Evaluating Emergency Management Websites using the 2003 fire as an example: Seminar, Report and Assessment Criteria. by Shelby Canterford
- Upscaled Fire Mapping System Software Engineering research project option: COMP4720, COMP4730 and COMP4540
- Sentinel Interactive Fire Tracking Map Demonstration 2006
- Web based open source disaster management system for Indonesian earthquake
- In stressful times what can we as teachers do?, by Dr John Worthington.