Natural and man-made disasters constitute a major threat to the economy, environment, and communities in Australia and globally. Bushfires are part of life in Australia, and when they burn out of control near populated areas can cause significant loss of life and property.
CSIRO’s Data61 is working with agencies to develop a tool that will allow state-wide assessment of evacuability for given fire weather conditions. This research aims to improve situational awareness and build decisional support for strategic, tactical, and real-time planning and post-recovery efforts.
These decisions involve multiple complex infrastructures, multiple agencies, and multiple stakeholders and focus on building environmental and societal resilience.
Simulations of Emergency Evacuations for Knowledge, Education and Response (SEEKER)
Simulations of Emergency Evacuations for Knowledge, Education and Response (SEEKER) is a decision support system that simulates a range of ‘what if’ scenarios to help emergency services make informed and strategic evacuation choices.
Developed by CSIRO and RMIT University, SEEKER models, visualises and analyses multiple versions of community evacuations in response to fire growth and movement.
SEEKER models calculate the local population's daily movements in the region, simulating prospective evacuees (demographics, behaviour personas, residency status), what they do (daily activities and connecting travel legs calibrated to observed traffic volumes), and how they’ll act when faced with a particular fire situation (wait and see, go home, check on dependents, leave the region).
SEEKER supports timely decisions by providing information on:
- The extent and severity of disaster (e.g., wildfire, flood) impact to the community.
- Complications associated with large numbers of tourists, major events, and transient populations in the region.
- Expected response of community members to the fire situation and official warnings.
- Impact of activating traffic management plans given available resources.
- Trigger points for decision making.
- Road speed and capacity constraints with respect to evacuating and background traffic.
- Unplanned consequences of traffic accidents or blockages as a result of trees over roads.
- Evacuation outcomes against a base case of no evacuation.
Supporting Victoria’s emergency management organisations
SEEKER was trialled by Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and the Country Fire Authority in 2022.
During a multi-agency training event, 60 emergency management specialists used the system to respond to a mock bushfire evacuation within the Surf Coast Shire, exploring decision making in chaotic and complex contexts, the consequences of evacuation alternatives, traffic management planning, timing of community warnings and advice, and likely human behaviour.
SEEKER is also being trialled in Mount Alexander Shire Council to improve emergency planning for major events, and under Country Fire Authority’s Community Based Bushfire Management program to help build community resilience to bushfire threat.