EPA AirWatch awarded for 2020 bushfire service

Monday, 02 November, 2020

EPA AirWatch awarded for 2020 bushfire service

The Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has won a global award for the AirWatch website that provided live air quality forecasts and health advice in easy-to-understand language during the 2020 bushfires.

The rebuilt website featuring the mobile-friendly EPA AirWatch provided vital live air quality information to the public and emergency services during the fires in Eastern Victoria. Having received the Sitecore Experience Award in the Most Impactful Human Connections in a Changing World category for the Asia Pacific Japan region, EPA has now won the global award for the category.

EPA CEO Dr Cathy Wilkinson described the global win for AirWatch as welcome recognition of EPA’s support to Victorians during the 2020 bushfires.

“Our work during the 2019–20 bushfire season was the confirmation of EPA’s expanding role as an emergency support agency, and our newly designed website played an important role in providing real-time air quality information, warnings and health advice to the community,” said Dr Wilkinson.

Qualifying for the global awards requires a sophisticated level of achievement; among the other winners is Johns Hopkins Medicine, which won for its achievements in delivering timely, accurate coronavirus information online.

The modernised online presence also made the most of EPA’s expanding capacity in the field, as EPA personnel were flown to East Gippsland by the Australian Defence Force to deploy incident air quality monitoring equipment that made live data available from the bushfire-affected areas.

Members of the public could easily find current conditions, four-day forecasts and links to health advice for vulnerable groups including children, people over 65, pregnant women and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

The EPA website featured heavy-duty online capacity to match the size of the emergency; EPA’s previous record for traffic on the site was 97 users/min, but during the peak of the bushfire season, EPA AirWatch was serving nearly 5000 users/min. The website received 3.9 million views, while AirWatch social media posts achieved 3.2 million impressions during the bushfires.

Public feedback during the bushfires was largely positive, with users ranging from parents of asthmatic children to personal trainers looking out for the health of their customers.

“New capabilities like this show the practical value to the community of the way EPA is transforming its structure and methods, and using technology to proactively provide information that is easily accessed and understood by the people who need it,” said Dr Wilkinson.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/beau

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