Monday, 04 May 2015 16:43

UN recognition for Aussie developed disaster evacuation app Featured

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UNISDR photo Bijan Gurung, Nepal UNISDR photo Bijan Gurung, Nepal

An Australian developed app that links people fleeing natural disasters with nearby evacuation centres has won a prestigious United Nations (UN) competition.

The Guardian Evacuations app – built using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology – helps victims of natural disasters locate their nearest evacuation centre while providing details on real-time traffic, weather, flood and fire information to help users determine the safest routes.

The application took out the Global Disaster Resilience App Challenge, which is run by international GIS technology giant Esri and the UN’s Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

The app was unveiled today to the North Queensland’s GIS community in Townsville at Directions LIVE, Australia’s leading spatial event series.

Guardian Evacuations was developed to complement the Guardian Disaster Management Suite, a range of tools used by Queensland councils to manage call centres and on-the-ground responses during disasters.

While currently in its beta stage of development, the app is expected to be available for download on Australian council websites, for use with phones, tablets and PCs, within six months.

There are also plans to make it available through Google and Apple’s app markets.

GP One Consulting Director Gareck Packer – who developed the app in conjunction with Queensland disaster management software company QIT Plus – said it draws information from a range of sources, including government departments and community groups.

“The app equips evacuees with crucial tools to help them reach safety during a disaster.

“This includes basic information, such as how to find an evacuation centre, what facilities the centre has, and what to take with them.

“Evacuees can also use the app to pre-register while travelling, which reduces pressure on centre volunteers and provides a vital record of who is expected compared to who has been received at a facility.

“Importantly, users can see which centres are currently accepting people, so they don't waste valuable time contacting co-ordination centres for this information.”

Esri Australia Managing Director Brett Bundock said smart mapping apps were increasingly becoming a crucial tool during major flood, fire and cyclone events – “when the difference between life and death can hinge on having the right information at your fingertips”.

“The technology provides an easy-to-use platform which allows different organisations to publicly share and present information in real-time,” Bundock said.

“This is invaluable in crisis situations, where clear and up-to-date information is critical in keeping the public safe. During disasters, people simply don’t have time to call different organisations to determine how to safely evacuate themselves and their families.

“The visual, universal language of map apps means anyone – regardless of their technical or cultural background – can quickly understand where they need to go to be safe.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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