Canberra: A 75-member Mapping and Planning Support (MAPS) group is helping emergency response in Australia by volunteering their time, specialised skills and mapping technology to provide emergency managers with the maps and geographic tools they need during national crises.
MAPS was formed in 2005 to support response activities after prolonged fires hit the nation’s capital in 2003. The members of the group have regular jobs, but when disaster strikes, the team makes itself available to assist various emergency service organisations across Australia. They have provided mapping support during some of Australia’s most devastating events including both the 2009 Victorian Black Saturday bushfires and 2011 Queensland floods and cyclones. The group uses GIS technology to deliver critical disaster intelligence to fire fighters, police or other personnel on the ground and in the emergency control centres. They help in rapidly collecting, processing, and distributing vital maps of information to response teams and senior management making decisions in the field when they need it. These interactive maps contain layers of data such as flood-mapping, road closures etc. that can be switched on or off, depending on the information required. Verified social media and crowd-sourced data are also integrated into the maps.