• Hawke's Bay firefighter wins Australasian award for app used during Napier floods

Hawke's Bay firefighter wins Australasian award for app used during Napier floods

A Hawke's Bay firefighter has taken top honours at this year's virtual AFAC conference for his work in developing an app that provides real-time data for emergency services and was used during the Napier floods.  

Senior Station Officer Bruce Botherway won the Knowledge Innovation Award at the AFAC (National Council for fire and emergency services in Australia and New Zealand) conference, which brings together the Australasian emergency management community.

For the first time in its 26-year history, the conference was held virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions, from October 5-7. 

Mr Botherway says it is humbling to be acknowledged. 

"It's really nice to be acknowledged for the work you do day to day but it is not just an individual award, and this could not have happened without the partnership with the Hawke's Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group." 

Mr Botherway and FENZ (Fire and Emergency New Zealand) Hawke's Bay developed the app using the ArcGis platform and in partnership with Hawke's Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group.

Having been involved with FENZ for more than 30 years - 20 in Hawke's Bay - Mr Botherway says seeing a similar concept in use during the Edgecumbe flood in 2017 inspired him to develop one locally.

The app can be used by first responders, operators of major hazard facilities and high-occupancy establishments, to provide a picture of the impact and target people who are affected by events, to inform the prioritisation of resources at a local, regional and national level. 

"These systems allow us to collect and display really good information in a timely and quick manner rather than waiting for people to radio in or call in," Mr Botherway says. 

"We can just push a button and the information is up into the Cloud and then it can be filtered for our commanders and different levels of our command can see different things and gain different information from that and we can just be way smarter about how we react to that." 

The benefits of this initiative were realised during the Napier Floods in November 2020. 

"It was almost a trial by fire," says Mr Botherway. "We had the app and the processes in a trial form, and were able to use them in the Napier floods to benefit our commanders and our community." 

"It was really good within the first 24-48 hours to give us a good spatial and mapping idea of which areas in Napier were affected and flooded. No other organisation had that information so it got really good use in that sense." 

FENZ Hawke's Bay District Manager Ken Cooper congratulated Mr Botherway. 

"It is great that we have the opportunity to recognise our people and celebrate success." He was recognised at the Te Ūpoko Celebrating Success Awards 2020, and FENZ then put him forward for recognition as an organisation. 

Mr Cooper says it is an example of the positive relationship between FENZ and the local emergency management sector and their alignment to community outcomes.

While the app is currently used internally, they are looking at ways to develop it further across the wider emergency management sector, and potentially for the public. 

"It showed its true value during the floods so FENZE and Group Civil Defence are going to accelerate this piece of work," Mr Cooper says. 

"We've got something now that we can actively use if we get a significant event and so the vision is that the community will have this app available to them and that the community will be able to push information through." 

An example of this could be during an earthquake where a school provides information through the app to let emergency services know they are okay and everyone is accounted for.

"That's the state that we want to get to," Mr Cooper says. "The rationale is that during a significant event we are anticipating the emergency services and the community will have to be resilient enough to manage that event until such time there is national assistance so while we have got good resources here, this app and this work certainly allows us to prioritise and send our resources to the greatest need." 

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