Thursday, September 20, 2012

MAPS - Volunteers Down Under

Recently, Asian Surveying and Mapping ran a piece on how geospatial technologies are currently being used in eastern Australia to support the Emergency Services Sector (ESS).   Although the article doesn't deliver a great deal of technical detail, it does a very nice job of explaining the ways in which geospatial capabilities are being used within the different phases of the Emergency Management Cycle. Additionally, from the perspective of supportive volunteer efforts, the highlight of the story is MAPS - Mapping and Planning Support.  According to its website, the history of MAPS is as follows:
"MAPS was formed in 2005 in response to the 2003 Canberra fires. During those fires the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) had a sophisticated mapping system in place but after two weeks of continuous operation the ESA ran out of people to operate the system. Only some heroic efforts by a couple of individuals kept the maps coming off the printers. Ironically, for its population size, Canberra has the highest concentration of GIS experts anywhere in Australia. But at the height of an emergency ESA had no way of knowing who and where they were. A protocol was needed for drawing upon that expertise at short notice.*
The Mapping and Planning Support Group (MAPS) is a new volunteering model that enables emergency managers in the ACT and the surrounding region to reliably tap this valuable resource of willing and able experts."
To learn more about either of these topics, use the links below:

Mapping to Protect Life and Property (MAPS Blog, March 3, 2011)

Comment: During at least one event in the recent past (Queensland Floods and Typhoons of 2010-2011), MAPS and URISA's GISCorps partnered on their support efforts, so functional similarities abound.  However, what is worthy to note about MAPS is their apparent acceptance and integration into the formal governmental response structure. On many levels, that is a significant achievement that both MAPS and the Australian response community should be very proud!

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