15th January 2020

The role of the geospatial community in mapping and managing wildfires

Claire Corlett

With the wildfires in Australia seemingly showing no sign of slowing down, worldwide media attention is shining a spotlight on the impact these fires are having on humans, wildlife and property across the country.

Scientists are now predicting that extreme events like wildfires will become increasingly likely.  This means the geospatial community has a leading role to play in driving innovations that help predict, track and manage the threat of natural disasters.

We can’t begin to understand the impact of wildfires without first knowing where they happen. Recording where a wildfire occurs is the first step in fighting it – where to send firefighters, which areas to evacuate, and where to send resources to support rebuilding.

Visualisations showing the spread of fires are useful tools to help mobilise a community, spread awareness and demonstrate the impact to the world too. Geovation member Carto have seen their location intelligence platform used to this effect by organisations providing alerts to users in Victoria and New South Wales during the recent wildfires.

Early warning systems

Being able to act with enough warning is vital and WatchKeeper, one of the graduates from our Accelerator programme, has developed a risk mapping platform to provide these early warnings. They are working with global companies who provide critical infrastructure and resources to ensure they can continue to serve local communities impacted by the bushfires.

WatchKeeper allows organisations to connect disparate internal datasets, mapping the location of facilities, employees, travellers and supply chains, alongside industry-leading risk feeds. By leveraging location intelligence, organisations are then alerted in real-time to natural disasters or violent incidents that might impact employee life-safety or business critical operations. This not only allows companies to respond faster and more effectively, but they can proactively mitigate disruption of services to impacted communities.

As seen with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and with the Haiti earthquake in 2010, if businesses are unable to keep food on the shelves, clean water supplies flowing, money in the ATMs and petrol in fuel tanks, there is a severe risk of basic law and order breaking down.

For WatchKeeper, geospatial data is vital in enabling preparedness and resiliency in communities before, during and after catastrophic events.

Rebuild and Recovery

Following a natural disaster, communities need to rebuild. Infrastructure needs repairing, and homes often need rebuilding. Being able to recover from a natural disaster is often reliant having the money available to do.

Earthscope, part of the current Geovation Accelerator cohort, hopes to revolutionise the insurance sector response to wildfires by removing the claims process and triggering payments automatically when defined criteria are met.

Using geospatial data, they will be able to track and plot wildfires and trigger insurance payments to their clients when the wildfire comes within a pre-defined radius. This means clients can repair and rebuild their lives and livelihoods without months of drawn out negotiations.

The current datasets available do not work quickly enough and so Earthscope, who are working with the belief that it is better to stop a building from burning down than paying out the insurance, see the mutual benefit to property owners and the insurance industry in being able to track even the smallest of wildfires quickly.

Data, innovation and positive change

Here at Geovation we recognise the importance of location data and the role it can play in solving real-world challenges across connectivity, mobility, infrastructure, land and property.

Each and every day, we work with founders and startups from across the location data and proptech sectors who are driven to create solutions that help improve the lives of individuals, communities and businesses.

If that sounds like you, become part of our Geovation community, and help make positive change happen through innovation, just like WatchKeeper and Earthscope.