Australia Flooding Support

Since December 2010, floods have been hitting Australia, particularly in Queensland.  The Esri Disaster Response Team has been activated for this event. We are working with Esri Australia, whose Brisbane office was significantly impacted, to provide support.  There are several applications available through our disaster response portal for this event.  There is a Common Operational Picture (COP) for the Brisbane City Council, our Latest News map as well as a new Ushahidi Trends map.  As always you can request support directly via this link on the portal

The Brisbane City Council Flood COP is a map application that is now available to provide updated information. It shows the scope of flood response, including evacuation centers and accessible roads near Brisbane, Australia as well as GeoRSS news feeds from the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC).  The actual flood peak is also included.  The application was created and is maintained by Esri Australia.

The Latest News map contains geolocated social media from Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.  Social Media continues to grow as a valuable source of information to enhance situational awareness.  Additionally this application has GeoRSS news feeds from the ABC as well as information from Ushahidi for this event.  This is the latest version of the Social Media application that we used to support many events last year including the Gulf Oil Spill, the Fourmile Canyon fire, and Hurricane Earl and the Mount Merapi Volcano.  The source code for the application is available to download here.  One of the new functions in this version is the ability to let you change the social media keyword filter on the fly.  In this case the keyword is #qldflood but that can be changed to #vicfloods for example if you are interested in what people are saying about the recent flooding in the southernmost state of Victoria.

New for this event we put together a Trends map based on the Ushahidi feed set up by the ABC.  We’ve been working more closely with Ushahidi these days – some of you may have seen our press release last October announcing our Strategic Partnership.  Unlike pure social media, where the percentage actionable and geo-located  information can be quite low, a high percentage of the Ushahidi reports contain actual latitude longitude values that pinpoint the reported incident to an exact location.  The communities that post to Ushahidi during a crisis are dedicated and as a result the quantity of information coming from the feed can be overwhelming when consumed as individual incidents.  One way to pull meaningful information out of the feed is to visualize the data as a hot spot map instead of the individual points. This gives you a better sense of where the concentration of reports that are coming from.  You can click on the different categories on the left hand side to show only those categories as hot spots on the map.  Furthermore you can filter the data by time by clicking on the link on the bottom left and adjusting the time slider accordingly.  If you want to just see the concentrations of points as dots uncheck the “Show Reports” box.

While this hot spot function is a visualization technique in the web tier, we can also bring in the data from Ushahidi to ArcGIS Desktop via a custom tool.  One of the tech wizards in our group quickly developed an ArcGIS 10 Desktop add-in that connects to the Ushahidi feed and stores it locally in the geodatabase for further analysis.  This provides Ushahidi as a data source for further analytics using traditional GIS tools and operations like Kernel Density, Frequency, and Geostatistics.  You can download the Ushahidi add-in for ArcGIS Desktop here.

We have also dispatched our wildfire specialist Tom Patterson to Australia to assist (see the video). He brings along many years of experience mapping operationally on incidents and more recent lessons learned from the Gulf Oil Spill and also Mobile Mapping for First Responders.

While the impact of these floods are tragic, we stand by in admiration of the resolve of the Australian people and are ready and willing to do what we can to help expedite the recovery.


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