A new rapid damage assessment (RDA) system developed to aid disaster recovery has stormed through its first major test with flying colours. The Western Australian (WA) Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) prototype enables Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams to instantly map property and infrastructure damage using mobile devices.
The devices are synchronised with FESA’s central operations centre, where personnel use the information to decide how to manage response and recovery.
The system was tested for the first time during the Margaret River bushfire in November last year and again when storms struck the Perth metropolitan and South West regions in June.
FESA Spatial Services Officer Yih Pyng Lee said the trials proved highly successful.
“In the past USAR have recorded the location of damage in a spreadsheet or via a laptop-based information-sharing application, which led to a delay between data capture and strategic planning,” Ms Lee said.
“The new mobile mapping system uses Geographic Information System (GIS) technology from location intelligence specialists Esri Australia to instantly capture data during a disaster, transfer it back to the operations centre and plot it on a map.
“During the most recent trials, these improvements enhanced our ability to both collect information and develop an accurate geographic-based picture of the emergency.
“Ultimately, this equipped our staff with a more complete understanding of the situation at hand and enabled quicker decision-making on damage assessment and recovery – such as identifying which areas required immediate attention, or prioritising infrastructure repair.”
Ms Lee said although the RDA system was initially developed for bushfire events, FESA were currently redesigning it into an ‘all hazard’ application.
“This will allow us to conduct rapid damage assessments during more incidents where major damage has occurred – such as floods, earthquakes and tropical cyclones,” Ms Lee said.
FESA’s new system will be on-show this September at Ozri 2012 – Australasia’s leading GIS technology event.
Esri Australia Business Manager Trevor Smales said FESA was one of a growing number of emergency services organisations using GIS technology to assist with the aftermath of a disaster.
“FESA and departments such as the South Australian Country Fire Service and Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Queensland Reconstruction Authority are continuing to broaden their use of GIS technology to coordinate emergency response activities and protect life and property,” Mr Smales said.
“GIS technology is of great value to emergency response and recovery because not only does it enable organisations to capture data in the field and share it with other stakeholders; it also gives information a spatial context that facilitates deeper analysis and better decision-making.
“FESA’s rapid assessment system is at the cutting-edge of mobile response solutions and is certain to excite the more than 500 leading GIS professionals attending Ozri 2012.”
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