Google's Crisis Map displays current information about where fires are burning while Public Alerts shows people fire information on Google Search and Maps, and notifies smartphone users of fire warnings if they’re in a fire-affected area.
Google Public Alerts provides accurate and relevant emergency alerts when and where people need them. People using Google Maps or Google Search may see relevant bushfire alerts from the NSW Rural Fire Service if they’re looking up a related place or term. With Google Now on smartphones, Google can alert people automatically if a bushfire is nearby and provide important information such as evacuation instructions.
The notifications, currently only operational in NSW, are available from today, along with the Google Crisis Map, a map that lets people see the location, size and status of any bushfire threats. During and after emergency responses to fires, authorities can add information to the map including shelter locations, evacuation areas and where to find vital services.
“The web is the first port of call for many Aussies when fire hits. Last bushfire season we saw a five-fold spike in Google searches as people went online to find out where fires were burning and how to stay safe,” said Nigel Snoad, Product Manager for Google Crisis Response.
“As summer approaches, the need for reliable and easily accessible information is more important than ever, particularly in regional parts of the state.”
Google spokesperson Johnny Luu told iTWire the new services were the first of hopefully a whole range of important new applications.
"We'll be looking to roll this out further in the future, including for emergency situations like floods and hurricanes," Luu said.
He also said the efforts were part of a global strategy of helping deal with emergencies, and Victoria's 'black Saturday' bushfires were one of the first examples of Google heading in this direction.
"Google's crisis response team is a global team, and for crises like the Japanese earthquake or Hurricane Sandy for example, they come together and figure out how can we \get really important information out to people as quickly as possible. It's their sole job to deal with crises and emergencies."
Automatic bushfire alerts are available on all Android phones and for people who have the Google Search app on iOS, whie the Crisis Map is available on all devices and platforms via google.org/crisismap/australia
The Google Crisis Map is also available for bushfire information in QLD, SA, TAS and the ACT, and Google Public Alerts is only available in NSW. The company said it would be working with authorities in all states and territories to further roll out the services.