Study finds Australian emergency services Web sites inadequate

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Study finds Australian emergency services Web sites inadequate

The Web sites of Australia's emergency services are running unacceptably poorly, site performance monitor WatchMouse has found.

In a study of 26 Web sites, including those of the ambulance, fire brigade and police in Queensland and New South Wales, only one site was found to have "good" uptime, while seven sites were deemed to have "serious user issues".

According to WatchMouse, a Web site's uptime was deemed "good" in accordance with industry standards, as many companies stipulate an uptime of 99.9 percent or higher as a minimum requirement for their IT service providers.

Only the site of the ACT Rural Fire Brigade broke the 99.9 percent mark.

Meanwhile, the Web site of the WA Ambulance rated most poorly with a 92.44 percent uptime, which the site performance monitor expects to result in a monthly downtime of 2 days, 8 hours and 15 minutes.

“99 percent uptime sounds great but when you actually calculate it, this means 80+ hours of downtime a year," explained WatchMouse CTO, Mark Pors. "That’s one working day per month! The Emergency Services phone lines could not be down for a day each month so why is it acceptable for the site?"

Over a one month period, sites were assessed according to errors, load time, and availability measurements to calculate a Site Performance Index (SPI). The SPI represents the relative website performance and quality of user experience on the site.

Only Australia-based test stations were used for the assessment. Each site was tested every five minutes.

Sites with the worst SPI generally had what WatchMouse described as very slow load times and included those of the Australian Federal Police, the Victorian Metropolitan Fire Brigade, and the Victorian Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority.

The report also found that Queensland's Ambulance, Fire and Police sites all encountered serious errors during a period when they might have been most needed. The sites were found to be unavailable for what WatchMouse reports to be "considerable periods of time" during the flash flooding in Queensland's Mackay region on Febuary 15 this year.

"Mackay represents a small proportion of Queensland's total population," Pors said, "but given that the sites of Queensland Emergency Services struggled during the Mackay floods, we can only imagine what will happen to those sites in the case of a disaster on a greater scale, when hundreds of thousands of people attempt to visit."
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