VICTORIA'S FireReady app will be updated just weeks after being re-released because it did not work on some smartphones, watch zones were too large for urban areas, and confusion arose about a misleading 'registration failed' message.
Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the app was working as expected, but warned it was not a 'silver bullet' and should be used along with warnings and bushfire information from radio, television, websites, hotlines, sirens and general awareness.
Network owners say mobile coverage in regional Victoria has improved in the past year and should provide better coverage in the event of bushfires, including delivering emergency alert texts.
The new FireReady app has been downloaded about 116,000 times since it was relaunched by the Commission on December 16 to replace an app made by the Country Fire Authority that crashed if too many people were using it.
The new app works only on recent Apple and Android software, which meant people who had not updated their smartphone's software were unable to use it.
It was not available for Microsoft or Blackberry smartphones.
Mr Lapsley said it was frustrating to discover the new app gave a misleading 'registration failed' message if users did not also activate 'push notifications', which allow the app to send warnings.
Mr Lapsley said this message confused and deterred many people.
A serious compatibility problem with HTC One phones has been resolved after the Commission released an updated Android version on Friday.
The Commission would also reduce minimum watch zones to 500 metres following complaints from people in cities who received warnings every time a fire appeared within five kilometres. The iPhone version would be upgraded in the next month with this feature.
The company that built the new app had tested the app on HTC One, but the Android version 4.3 was introduced after testing and had created problems for several applications, according to project director Kevin Payne from Dialog IT. The 'registration failed' message had not come up in testing and would be changed to help people activate push notifications on their phone.
''I don't think there is anything else that is really an issue," Mr Payne said. The app was hosted by Amazon Web Services and was backed up by two data centres in NSW and Amazon's global network of data centres.
Mr Lapsley said apart from the unexpected technical problems the app was "performing as it is supposed to" and the capacity to handle high volumes of traffic was still good.
Victorians should also receive warnings on mobile and fixed phones if they were in danger through the Emergency Alert System.
Optus' network has been fully integrated into the warning system and it has built new mobile sites in towns such as Glenmaggie, Longford and Wahgunya, a spokesman said.
Vodafone's network spread was now available in 70 more regional Victorian towns, including Leongatha, Inglewood, Port Campbell, Foster and Yarram, according to a company spokeswoman.
Telstra's network now covered 81 per cent of Victoria's landmass, a spokesman said.
However, one town identified by Premier Denis Napthine as a dangerous blackspot, Dereel, would still have to wait for improved coverage.
Mr Napthine said the lack of mobile coverage restricted firefighters when a bush fire swept through and destroyed 16 houses and 18 buildings in Dereel last year.
However, both Telstra and Optus have encountered strong opposition from residents whenever they proposed building mobile towers in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
Acting chief executive of Golden Plains Shire Council, Jill Evans, said there was now overwhelming support for a mobile tower and the council had forwarded 56 letters from residents to the Premier since he visited.
"Council understands also that NBN Co has recently received VCAT approval for a tower to provide broadband access to Dereel," she added. NBN Co's tower was finished in November and Telstra and Optus confirmed they would look at using it to improve coverage.