Data disaster: Do GIS systems protect Australians against extreme events?

Article published by Government News @Government_News by on May 7, 2015

Dungog NSW in flood in April 2015 Source Government News
Dungog NSW in flood in April 2015 Source Government News

Government agencies and local councils are now increasingly routinely relying on Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to help them plan for disasters, expedite rescues and target clean-up and reconstruction efforts, but for policymakers there’s an ever present budgetary question as to whether they make a real difference reducing damage and saving lives or are just a ‘nice to have’.

Dungog NSW in flood in April 2015 Source Government News

The answer, based on recent evidence, seems to be that the technology already earns more than its keep, a situation that strengthens the case for greater government investment ahead of the annual allocation of state and federal funding.

Agencies involved in battling the recent NSW storms and flooding used GIS to provide live public safety announcements and a live storm data by integrating different sources of information. For example, the Bureau of Meteorology flood gauges were integrated with the websites of local councils and public safety agencies such as the State Emergency Services.

Disaster Management Specialist for GIS company Esri, Mark Wallace, said GIS was excellent at bringing together different data sets and visually depicting a huge amount to make it easier to understand.

“It creates a complete operating picture that provides situational awareness,” Mr Wallace said.

“It means better decisions are made because there is only a finite set of resources that they [councils and government agencies] can use to respond to these events.”

He said GIS helped agencies and councils plan where to deploy their resources before a natural disaster happened by testing out likely scenarios.

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