January 16, 2014 -- As the anniversary of the 2013 Bundaberg flood approaches, Bundaberg Regional Council has for the first time revealed the critical role cutting-edge mapping technology played in saving thousands of flood victims.
When six tornados struck in and around Bundaberg in January 2013, Council turned to Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to provide rescue teams with instant information for evacuations, rescues, food drops, and the ensuing clean-up.
Council’s GIS Delivery and Support Team Leader Steven Bowden said the technology was a crucial part of its operation to evacuate more than 6,000 people from the areas of North and East Bundaberg.
“Council has been working with Esri Australia in leveraging GIS technology across different business areas for the past five years,” Mr Bowden said.
“But it was when the floods hit in 2010 and 2013 that the technology truly delivered its greatest value by providing us with an up-to-date view of the situation as it was unfolding.
“In this way, GIS technology improved all of our tactical and operational decision-making, situational awareness, strategic planning, community engagement and rescue efforts.
“It was crucial for us at Council, as well as other organisations such as the Australian Defence Force (ADF), The Salvation Army and The Red Cross.
“It also enabled us to receive information from other organisations, particularly Rapid Damage Assessment (RDA) data from the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES).”
Mr Bowden said Council also used GIS technology to deliver critical emergency messages for those in trouble during the disaster.
“We used GIS technology to define the boundaries of areas affected by the incident,” Mr Bowden said.
“These geographic locators then allowed Council to issue State Government Emergency Alerts to the residents of Winfield – on Baffle Creek – warning them of impending flooding.
“The Emergency Alert system produced an automatic voice message to all identified landline telephone services, within the defined geographic area, notifying them of the approaching danger.”
Andrew Highley, Esri Australia Business Manager, said during the crisis, GIS technology was critical in identifying where community members needed help.
“Council used the technology to map the locations of requests for assistance from the Disaster Coordination Centre Hotline,” Mr Highley said.
“Councils could then locate where community members were and what assistance they required – such as whether they were trapped by the flood or if they had no access to food.
“Response agencies such as State Emergency Services, QFES, Queensland Police Service, Queensland Ambulance Service, and helicopter assets could then be dispatched to respond to the situation.
“Comprehensive maps for the ADF were also generated to find suitable landing sites for food drops, as well as maps of exclusion zones, traffic management plans, critical infrastructure, mud army marshalling and route maps.”
Bundaberg Regional Council has revealed more details of their 2013 flood experience in the GIS in Local Government Benchmark Study.
The Study – a joint collaboration between the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute and Esri Australia – found 76 per cent of councils use GIS technology when planning for an emergency; 75 per cent use it to guide their response; and 68 per cent rely on it to aid recovery.