Porirua is the latest city to adopt the Readynet emergency preparedness network, a web-based system used by around 500 schools throughout New Zealand, in partnership with the NZ School Trustees Association, but used by only a few local authorites.
Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt cities were the first to sign up to the network, and Buller District will implement it over the next few months.
Readynet is the brainchild of Wellingtonian Matthew Nolan, who initially developed a benchmark for emergency preparedness in schools following two major floods in the same week, in 1998, in the Kapiti district.
The catalyst was a school bus driver hearing a radio news item about an emergency declaration, then ordering all the primary school children off his bus, leaving them to walk home through the flooded streets.
The original benchmark Nolan developed was a standalone application sold into schools, which used it to complete and then maintain a comprehensive template of information for emergency management and response.
In 2003, Nolan began redeveloping it as a web-based application. Readynet was released in 2004, based on the benchmark but taking advantage of the net for distribution, and replacing reliance on in-house PCs with centralised hosting of data by Revera.
Updated information on user sites became available to emergency services online 24x7, and Readynet was enabled to deliver email and text message warnings.
In 2005, a relationship was formed with Local Government Online (LGOL), which was formed in 1997 with the specific objective of identifying and promoting to territorial authorities best-of-breed IT solutions for their use.
LGOL became a channel partner for the distribution of Readynet to the local government sector.
LGOL chief executive Jim Higgins says Readynet has a huge contribution to make to emergency preparedness and response.
“We are seeing the emergence of four types of system, which all mesh together: mapping systems; management systems; warning and alerting systems; and information systems — information about what is out there, in terms of people and their needs, at various sites such as schools and rest homes.”
Higgins says the first three types of system are only able to make a contribution when the emergency is happening but that Readynet becomes a real enabler of community engagement.
“The effectiveness of the other three types of system is significantly increased when they are able to be used in conjunction with the wealth of data provided by the Readynet system.”
Higgins puts the slow uptake by local authorities down to already low budgets and a propensity to appoint emergency managers who are close to retirement and maintaining a job for themselves.
“Auckland is a good example,” he says. “There are just two emergency management employees and they don’t even have a vehicle. If they had to attend an emergency, they would have to go by bus.”
Wellington-based Microsoft partner Information Power developed Readynet in ASP.Net.
Schools pay from $100-250 a year, dependent on roll size, while territorial authorities pay an implementation fee of $3,000, then an annual subscription of $5,000, plus a capitation levy of 40 cents per head of population, phased in over four years.
The Readynet application is owned by Emergency Management Holdings, and distributed by Emergency Management Associates, which handles implementation and runs the help desk.
Higgins says Emergency Management Associates is in discussion with parties in Australia and the US.