Facebook has opened up real-time map data and has also pledged to donate
to those fighting the blaze.
Australia is in the grip of one of the worst environmental disasters in history.
The bushfires have consumed over 15 million acres, taken the lives of at least 27
people, and it is estimated that over a billion animals have been killed -- with
rescuers racing to save creatures from fire-ravaged areas and airdropping food in
the hopes of preventing further loss of life due to starvation.Up to 50mm of rain
has now fallen across areas in New South Wales and Victoria, putting out some of
the fires -- but many more still continue to ravage the country. Thunderstorms and
lightning, too, have prompted a number of new blazes.Emergency and fire responders,
both professional and voluntary, continue to tackle the fires and assist beleaguered
members of the general public.
We are familiar with some of Facebook's disaster mechanisms, such as the ability to
mark ourselves as 'safe' during incidents. It is, therefore, interesting to see how
information generated by the social network's users is being harnessed by those on
the ground in Australia.
Facebook's Disaster Maps are collections of real-time data points generated by users
of the network who turn on Location Services and Location History. Within 24 hours of
a reported disaster, these maps can be used by responders to help them "act quickly
and efficiently to save lives," according to the firm
Four maps have been shared with agencies: the South Coast of New South Wales; East
Gippsland in Victoria; the Green Wattle Creek Fire in New South Wales; and the Cudlee
Creek Fire in South Australia.
Over 100 Data for Good partners have access to these maps, including those involved in
humanitarian efforts. Direct Relief, for example, is using the maps to monitor evacuations
and intends to distribute over 500,000 respiratory masks to firefighters across Victoria and New South Wales.
"Those maps illustrate how populations are evacuating and whether they have access to
cellular networks, which are helping response organizations optimize their response
efforts," Facebook says. "Such real-time information helps responders effectively deploy
resources to serve the neediest survivors and protect vulnerable populations by painting
a more complete picture of where affected people are located," the firm added.
Facebook has also pledged AU$250,000 to the Australian Red Cross for disaster relief and
recovery projects. Local non-profits working on the ground in recovery efforts, supported
by GlobalGiving, may also benefit as the social media giant will match up to AU$1 million
in donations made. Donations submitted through Facebook's Crisis Response pages for the
bushfires across New South Wales and Victoria/South Australia will also be matched up to AU$1 million.
The social media giant's Disaster Maps have previously been used in disaster efforts during
Hurricanes Dorian and Barry, the Philippines' Typhoon Tisoy, and the recent Puerto Rico
6.4 magnitude earthquake, which knocked power out across most the territory and forced
thousands of people to flee to shelters. The aftershocks are still being felt.
Facebook Disaster Maps data plays a part in tackling Australia’s bushfires, By Charlie Osborne for Between the Lines,
Provided by the IKCEST Disaster Risk Reduction Knowledge Service System