In late 2019, Gaia Resources answered a call from the Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades WA, who were seeking a partner to help develop a proof of concept mobile app and web site that would support the volunteers fighting bushfires around WA. We jumped in to help and worked through the Christmas period to get that proof of concept up and running, as a pro bono project.
Then, in early 2020, funding became available to develop a much more fully-featured product, resulting in the Essential Service Volunteers (ESV) app, which was quietly published in the last two weeks. The app is free to download, but full functionality is only available for users who volunteer for an essential service that has an active subscription.
This new app is an indispensable tool for volunteers who provide essential services such as firefighters, paramedics, surf lifesavers and search and rescue personnel and is free to use for all volunteers of registered essential services (although there are costs associated with other services outside of the Bush Fire Volunteers joining up with the app). Managers of Bush Fire Volunteer Brigades that are not yet registered should contact ES Volunteers to discuss how to get set up.
Key features of the app include:
- a virtual ID card that proves the user is a currently registered and approved member of a legitimate volunteer essential service,
- the ability for the user to log the duration, location and type of work volunteers undertake,
- support for the Brigade Captains and Local Government officers to obtain statistics around the volunteering efforts of their Brigade, and
- the provision of discounts and deals offered exclusively to volunteers by nearby businesses.
As well as providing this valuable information to volunteers and important general statistics for their whole service, if a user chooses to log their GPS coordinates while at an incident, the record may be useful as evidence in future health, employment, reimbursement or other claims.
Businesses and other suppliers ranging from small regional coffee shops, mechanical repairers and hotels to multinational retailers can list discounts and offers exclusively for the volunteers, with the ability to choose which volunteers have access to their offer. Suppliers can choose who sees their offer by location, service type and later, even by specific Brigade.
A second phase of development that is underway already will provide a more comprehensive web app allowing volunteer users to manage their details, generate free reports of time spent, and the location and types of work undertaken. The web app will also enable authorised volunteer Brigade leaders to add and verify the volunteer users within their team.
So, what next?
- If you are in charge of an existing Bush Fire Brigade, then visit the ES Volunteers website to register your Brigade, which will require you to provide listings of your volunteers, so that they can start using the app,
- If you are a Bush Fire volunteer (and once your Brigade Captain has set up your Brigade) you can download the app to your device from the Google Play or the iTunes App Store,
- If you are involved in a different service than the Bush Fire Volunteers (e.g. ambulance, etc) then visit the ES Volunteers website to get more details about the small set-up fee and annual service charge, and to get started.
Hundreds of Bushfire Volunteers are already registered and using the app, including a number of whole Brigades, and we’ve already delivered an update with additional features – with more to come as we get feedback from the volunteers.