Highly Available Natural Disaster Website: VicSES

A public website and extranet 99.99% uptime during a major earthquake where a predicted 800,000 would access the website for emergency information within 15 minutes.

About the Client

Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) is a volunteer-based organisation, providing emergency assistance to minimise the impact of emergencies and strengthen the community’s capacity to plan, respond and recover, when emergencies occur.

The Challenges

Addressing the need for extremely robust and reliable communication during emergency situations, VIC SES management faced the challenge of allocating a substantial budget to develop a resilient and dependable communications portal for volunteers and the public.

The objective was to procure a platform that guaranteed a 99.99% high-availability web solution capable of seamless access from any mobile or desktop device, irrespective of location. This recognition is underscored by the fact that over 83% of Australian adults now rely on online platforms for acquiring information.

The Solution

PretaGov delivered a solution that has made the day-to-day management of content much easier for staff and volunteers. Non-technical content managers can easily update content on the site from any location. Front end developers can easily modify templates using Plone’s through web editing tool Diazo. Role-based workflow speeds up content approvals. Both the public website and extranet are administered via one interface, saving time and money.

The extranet allows rapid, online collaboration between all 2,000 volunteers. They can communicate at all times during an emergency situation, in online project areas and forums. They also have access in non-emergency situations to a range of content, such as training materials.

The hosting environment deployed is quickly scalable to respond to high levels of requests specifically under an emergency situation. It guarantees 99.99% reliability based on highly redundant and highly available infrastructure.

The system had to be tested with a level of traffic as close as possible to a live emergency.

Major Outcomes

Proven 99.99% site availability - The VIC SES PretaGov solution is the first of its kind in Australia to successfully undergo load testing for the websites and data centre to handle a worst case disaster scenario. The situation tested a major earthquake hitting the CBD of Melbourne. The VIC SES predicted 800,000 people accessing the website for emergency information in 15 minutes is equivalent to a peak session rate of 2000 sessions per second).

The following year Melbourne did in fact get the largest earthquake in 100years and the site handled the increase of 200,000 connections in a matter of minutes with no change in average response time.

The agency is now fully confident they can meet their public service obligations which is to provide emergency information with 99.99% availability and ensure volunteers are keep up to date via the extranet.

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