An Australian app that links people fleeing natural disasters with nearby evacuation centres could soon be saving lives around the world, after winning a United Nations (UN) competition.
The Guardian Evacuations app – built using geographic information system (GIS) technology – helps victims of natural disasters locate their nearest evacuation centre while providing details on real-time traffic, weather, flood and fire information to help users determine the safest routes.
The application took out the Global Disaster Resilience App Challenge, which is run by international GIS technology company Esri and the UN’s Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).
The app was unveiled this week to North Queensland’s GIS community at an industry event.
GP One consulting director Gareck Packer – who developed the app in conjunction with Queensland disaster management software company QIT Plus – said it draws information from a range of sources, including government departments and community groups.
“The app equips evacuees with crucial tools to help them reach safety during a disaster,” Mr Packer said. “This includes basic information, such as how to find an evacuation centre, what facilities the centre has, and what to take with them.
“Evacuees can also use the app to pre-register while travelling, which reduces pressure on centre volunteers and provides a vital record of who is expected compared to who has been received at a facility.
“Importantly, users can see which centres are currently accepting people, so they don’t waste valuable time contacting co-ordination centres for this information.”
Esri Australia managing director Brett Bundock said smart mapping apps were increasingly becoming a crucial tool during major flood, fire and cyclone events – when the difference between life and death can hinge on having the right information at your fingertips.
Guardian Evacuations was developed to complement the award-winning Guardian Disaster Management Suite, a range of tools used by Queensland councils to manage call centres and on-the-ground responses during disasters.
While currently in its beta stage of development, the app is expected to be available for download on Australian council websites for use with phones, tablets and PC within six months.
There are also plans to make it available through Google and Apple’s app markets.