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 fully rebuilt website with the new mobile-friendly EPA AirWatch arrived just in time to provide vital live air quality information to the public and emergency services during the devastating fires in eastern Victoria.

Having won the Sitecore Experience Award in the Most Impactful Human Connections in a Changing World Category for the Asia Pacific Japan region, for giving Victorians relevant and real-time environmental data during the devastating 2020 bushfires, EPA has now gone on to win the global award for the category.

Qualifying to be considered for the global awards required a sophisticated level of achievement; among the other winners is the respected American university-based Johns Hopkins Medicine, which won for its achievements in delivering timely, accurate coronavirus information online.  

As bushfire smoke from the fires of early 2020 affected air quality right across the state, the rebuilt EPA site gave live air quality data, forecasts and warnings in plain English, with the focus on helping the public to take measures to protect themselves.

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 direct 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.

Behind the easy to use public interface, the new EPA website had heavy duty online capacity to match the size of the emergency.

EPA’s previous record for traffic on the site was 97 users per minute, but during the peak of the bushfire season the website and EPA AirWatch were serving nearly 5,000 users per minute.  The website achieved 3.9 million views and AirWatch social media posts achieved 3.2 million impressions during the bushfires.

Public feedback during the bushfires was overwhelmingly positive, with users ranging from parents of asthmatic children to personal trainers looking out for the health of their customers; thousands of people looked to EPA AirWatch for information and forecasts they could use. 


QUOTES FROM EPA 

“This global win for AirWatch is welcome recognition of EPA’s successful support to Victorians during the 2020 bushfires,” Dr Cathy Wilkinson, CEO, Environment Protection Authority Victoria, said.

“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,” she said. 

“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.”


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

In 2018 the Environmental Protection Amendment Act began the transformation of the EPA, changing its focus to preventing pollution and waste rather than reacting to it.   EPA is being rebuilt from the ground up with a new vision and strategy, new legislation and overhauling many services, systems and processes.

The new website at epa.vic.gov.au is a part of EPA’s Transformation being undertaken with assistance from Deloitte Australia.

The Sitecore announcement is here: sitecore.com/customers/experience-awards/2020winners
 

Reviewed 29 October 2020