Gridstone picked for EARS project

By Paul Hemsley

Communities and councils will be alerted to unfolding emergencies more quickly after the Local Government Association of South Australia’s signed-up Victorian company Gridstone to develop a mobile app.

The company has been awarded a $143,000 contract to build the LGASA’s Emergency Assessment Reporting System (EARS), a project than comes in response to recently identified reporting gaps between state emergency management bodies.

The new mobile app will allow vital information on damaged areas in times of emergency or disaster to be shared between councils and emergency service agencies through a cloud-based system.

In late 2012 and early 2011 massive floods revealed an alarming gap in information gathering on flood data between councils and the State Emergency Management System, a problem that the LGSA hopes to address with the new EARs prioject.

The new reporting system comes after an announcement in February this year that the LGASA had obtained an initial $130,000 grant from the Commonwealth and South Australian governments.

The South Australian is the latest in a swag of local and state government project wins Gridstone, which has secured deals from agencies including the Victoria’s Country Fire Authority, Department of Justice, the Department of Sustainability and Environment.  The company has also won a deal with NSW Regional Development Northern Rivers arm.

A noteable aspect of the latest win is that Gridstone has developed a similar system to make emergency monitoring more accessible to the public through the CFA’s ‘FireReady’ app as a response to the deadly Black Saturday bushfires that decimated the state in 2010.

LGASA president, Kym McHugh said floods, bushfires and severe weather events have forced councils to need ‘real time’ information on the impact of disaster situations.

Mr McHugh said EARS will allow council staff and emergency personnel to send photos, videos and audio recordings and text information into a ‘cloud’ collection portal.

This information can then be used to assist during emergencies and simplify reporting processes for insurance and disaster recovery funds, according to Mr McHugh.

“EARS will be compatible for use with Android, iPhone and web apps through cloud hosts and we hope to begin user trials before the end of the year with the app available for use in the first quarter of 2013,” Mr McHugh said.

He said Gridstone came recommended after winning the 2011 Mobile Monday’s Consumer Application of the Year, the Best iOS (Apple) App, the Best Government Services App in the 2012 Australian Mobile Awards and was nominated for the 2012 Victorian Premier's Award.

According to the LGASA, EARS will be initially available to council and emergency services staff in 2013 but it can be extended to other agencies if required.

Local government’s are increasingly adopting cloud technology for business continuity and emergency  management because they do not have to rely on infrastructure that may be destroyed or crippled by  natural disasters.

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