Emergency calls data key to faster disaster responses

Emergency calls data key to faster disaster responses

Tuning out the social media noise and tracking emergency call data may be a faster and more accurate way to track active fires – helping to save lives and property.

A research team, led by RMIT geographic information scientist Professor Matt Duckham, developed an automated technique for real-time tracking of bushfire perimeters, based on publicly available data generated from Triple Zero (000) calls.

“Telephone calls to emergency services were less noisy and more reliable than many other sources of crowdsourced data, such as social media,” Professor Duckham said.

The team used data from emergency calls during Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires to track the growth and movement of the blazes that claimed 173 lives.

The research relied on constructing an evolving ‘footprint’ for the bushfire perimeter based on the incident locations and timing estimated from emergency calls.

“Authorities already rely on ground-based observations, high-resolution satellites and airborne infrared scanners, all of which play an important role in bushfire emergency planning and response.

“But in the case of bushfires, there are no authoritative information sources that can always and reliably generate up-to-date and accurate information about bushfire perimeters.”

He said authoritative information sources may suffer from delays and bottlenecks, while predictive bushfire behaviour models are inevitably limited in accuracy by the quality of input data.

The new technique also allows information to be continually and automatically updated in real time, day and night.

Learn more about the RMIT research here. Story credit: RMIT University newsroom.

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