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Government GIS, Public Safety

Australian State launches GIS-based emergency response system

The New South Wales State Emergency Services (NSW SES) has launched a new mapping system that allows volunteers on the ground to instantly share real-time information needed by incident management teams to coordinate rescue operations.


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In the previous year, over 20,000 people were temporarily isolated by floodwaters when intense rainfall caused major flooding in the Tweed and Clarence rivers affecting nearby communities.

According to NSW State Emergency Service GIS Manager Elliott Simmons, a pilot trial of the mapping system was used during that time to help first responders. Because of its success, Simmons said it is now ready to be extended to 229 units located throughout the State.

“When major floods occur, it presents unique challenges for incident management teams who, as well as coordinating frontline assistance, need to inform the wider organisation of the situation around them,” Simmons said.

“With the previous system, volunteers needed to be connected to the NSW SES network in the headquarters to view critical geospatial data – and when they were out on a job, mapping features could only be described through manual communication methods.”

“Now mapping volunteers deployed to forward locations can use the new system to instantly upload locally refined evacuation areas to a central system, allowing other datasets such as demographics or risks to infrastructure to be overlayed and considered prior to release.”

By doing so, information about what is happening and where it is happening can now flow more rapidly, allowing the NSW SES to make more informed decisions in shorter timeframes which will ultimately improve response times and community safety.

“Volunteers have always been our eyes and ears on the ground, but now they have an instant mapping and reporting capability that enables us to quickly and efficiently respond to incidents as they happen,” he said.

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