Tracking app could be cash boon for volunteer fireys

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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There are 20,000 registered voluteer firefighters in WA (Photo by Sam Mooy/Getty Images)
Camera IconThere are 20,000 registered voluteer firefighters in WA (Photo by Sam Mooy/Getty Images) Credit: Sam Mooy/Getty Images, Sam Mooy

WA Bushfire Volunteers is hoping its newly developed app designed to enhance its services will also generate an income stream for the group.

Bushfire Volunteers executive officer Darren Brown said its Essential Services app was able to track a volunteer’s location and log the completed task.

The information was collated centrally, automatically creating accurate and detailed records of services done.

Mr Brown said the app, which was developed by Perth-based Gaia Resources and had backing from Amazon Web Services, could be customised to suit other volunteer services, which faced challenges in accurately documenting the work done by individuals.

He said after the group bedded down the technology in its own organisation, the app would be pitched to volunteer fire brigades in other States, as well as other organisations such as the Red Cross, surf lifesaving clubs and wildlife rescue centres.

Income from the app could help support the WA Bushfire Volunteers running costs, which receives $116,000 government funding each year to represent, support, and promote the 20,000 registered volunteers.

Mr Brown said the app would provide an insight into the immense amount of work being done by volunteer firefighters and demonstrate more resources were needed. He said until now the effort put in by volunteers was underestimated, because they responded to fires, but rarely filled out paperwork to say they had done so.

“As a result, there’s been vague details and huge under reporting of what bushfire volunteers do and the hours they spend doing service, which in turn has detrimentally affected the amount of government funding that volunteer bush fire brigades can attract,” he said.

Of the $406 million to be collected in emergency service levies in the year to June this year, $33 million goes to local governments for bushfire and State Emergency Service volunteers.

“For the first time ever, we’ll be able to have a proper rational discussion about resourcing, backed up with credible records,” Mr Brown said.

On the bushfire side this is expected to cover vehicles, operational costs, training and protective gear for the volunteers, across about 560 local government authorities, who respond to thousands of incidents each year.

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