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28 November 2013 News Release

“Currently, there are many ways emergency services and the community accesses official, crowd sourced and social media information during natural disasters,” CSIRO’s Digital Productivity and Services Flagship Research Leader Alan Dormer said.

“There is a real need for a united approach to help bring all of this information together in a way that makes it easier to understand, and make quick and informed decisions on how to respond to minimise the risk to life and property.”

During the two-day Building a System of Systems for Disaster Management event key agencies from across the country will look at how they currently access vital information during emergencies, and how they can work together to improve on their systems for future benefit.

“Our aim is to develop a joint statement and plan of attack on how to address the research and information concerns that restrict our ability to achieve full situational awareness during a disaster at a national scale,” Mr Dormer said.

“Technology has a major part to play in this, and we are working together to find solutions to big information gathering and sharing challenges faced by emergency services during natural disasters.”

Emergency services, such as the NSW Rural Fire Service, are already using some technologies, like the CSIRO-developed Emergency Situation Awareness (ESA), to supplement information from other sources.

“Minimising the time for communication and integration of this information frees up time for discussion, considering options and results in faster and better decisions,” Mr Dormer said.

“Having this information in an accessible form also enables incidents to be replayed and reviewed so that we can learn and respond better next time.

“This discussion is just the beginning and we hope to form a core working group of national agencies and organisations which will meet regularly to work toward the development of a high-level architecture of the system of systems, linking industry best practise and collaboration pathways to support situation awareness and community resilience.”

CSIRO is also working on a suite of information based tools for disaster management  including, predictive modelling of floods, bushfires and tsunamis, risk analysis, support tools for community resilience and apps for disaster recovery.


CSIRO’s ESA tool can help alert emergency services to new outbreaks of fire or emerging natural disasters by picking up unusual patterns in twitter activity.
NSW RFS control centre during the recent NSW Fires. CSIRO'S ESA tool can be seen in the botton left hand corner. ©  Credit: NSW RFS
The National Saftey Agency vehicle provides emergency services personnel at the scene and in the command centre with access to the right information at the right time to improve the coordination of operations during disasters such as bushfires.

Background information

NSW Rural Fire Service

During the recent NSW Bushfires, the NSW RFS used CSIRO’s Emergency Situation Awareness (ESA) and Vizie tools in their state operations centre to detect minute-by-minute, unusual patterns in tweets that would provide information on emerging fires.

Anthony Clark, Group Manager of Corporate Communications, NSW RFS, said that fire agencies like the NSW RFS have been using social media to push information out to and engage with the community during emergency situations.

“However the challenge now is how to harness social media and use it as a reliable source of information and intelligence,” Mr Clark said.

“With more than 470 million impressions of the hashtag nswfires during the October fires, it’s a significant challenge to monitor, sort and analyse that amount of information.

“The CSIRO’s Vizie and ESA monitoring tools are helpful, filtering through the massive flow of social media information and presenting the NSW RFS with snapshots of what affected communities were seeing and saying.”

National Safety Agency

The National Safety Agency, supported by the Victorian Fire Services Commissioner, has developed a mobile test platform (or truck) called SAMMI, Strategically Activated to Monitor and Manage Incidents.

Over a two-year period, NSA will deliver a new emergency services integrated communications vehicle, leveraging high-capacity broadband data for use on a smart phone for all emergency services front line and command personnel, providing them with access to the right information at the right time.

The vehicle will be located close to major emergency incidents, and incorporates over 30 screens including CSIRO software developed for analytics and disaster simulation.

SAMMI provides a comprehensive incident management platform through multiple perspectives including weather location information via cameras, hydrology data, real time images from emergency services operators helmet held cameras, email information, dashboards with different knowledge sources, reporting from TV stations and videoconferencing capabilities between the vehicle and the State Control Centre (SCC).

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