NSW Rural Fire Service Fires Near Me app

  • 2020

  • Social Impact

Designed By:

Commissioned By:

NSW Rural Fire Service

Designed In:


Fires Near Me NSW is the official application of the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), providing critical lifesaving information and alerts about bush and grass fires across NSW. Stay up to date on bush fires in NSW, providing emergency warnings and incident information.

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  • Bushfires are common in Australia, but an ever increasing threat to the public. Designing a mobile (and website) application that the general public could easily use and at scale, under emergency conditions (including limited mobile reception) and accessible for an entire country's population is a unique challenge. Not only did the application require to surface incidents over a localised map view, but send out emergency alerts in the millions, at scale. This application needed to be sophisticated in its design to ensure it never went offline as is considered a core public utility.

  • Designers and Solution Architects from Arq worked closely with the RFS across multiple design workshops in a 3 month period, including multiple stakeholders from government and member's of the public. The solution pitched aimed at solving unique challenges in delivering an app that must operate at scale and be seamless to use from the first download. Personalisation and usability were vital design drivers - the right information delivered in the right way. Arq developers also designed a new architecture powering the new Watchzones feature - a push notifications platform, which not only performed at scale but also identified significant hosting cost efficiencies.

  • Arq's solution triggered a major social transformation in terms of how the Australian public responded to unprecedented bushfire threats. Almost overnight, Mobile was now the primary channel of choice, replacing the incumbent television and radio. Successfully performing at scale with 2.6 million mobile app downloads and over 12 million push notifications sent on a single day. Both iOS / Android apps featured top of the app stores, with Apple and Google listing the app as most trending app throughout the bushfire season. It served over 500Million sessions, with over 1.9Million individual watchzones created. Since launch, the service has never gone offline.

  • The design of the watch zone push notifications was a key feature for the fires near me app that is testament to the app's success. Once you setup a watchzone around your home, if a fire starts nearby or is fast approaching, the user receives a personalised push notification alerting them of the threat level type and advice on how to proceed or evacuate. A key government requirement was that the system needed to handle 20 million simultaneous connections. Our scalability test was conducted on AWS cloud technologies, where we were able to deliver 20 million successful notifications over a 6 hour period, during load testing in a single region with no indicated instability. AWS have since confirmed we were one of the first in the world to run a scalability test at that size for such a service. Arq's unique design and implementation of this notifications platform is considered best in class and now used as a template by other emergency and government departments who have expressed in similar app.