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March 21st, 2013
Real-Life Disaster Imaging Needed for Next Aussie Crisis

The technology can generate a highly precise, real-time view of a situation on the ground – regardless of any physical obstruction that may be caused by a disaster – so rescuers and responders can safely take action.

Cherie Muleh, an international expert from Exelis Visual Information Systems (VIS) – the developers of ENVI – said the technology has become a major component in disaster relief efforts globally.

“Historically, emergency services would have to rely on static data or word-of-mouth updates to gather a picture of the emergency situation,” Ms Muleh said.

“Instead, ENVI draws on data captured from remote sensors, such as an aircraft or satellite for example.

“This data – which ranges from colour photographs, to radar and multispectral, or even heat-generated images – reveals parts of the disaster zone which would have been impossible for rescuers to see otherwise, simply because such areas are often inaccessible.

“The result is an incredibly detailed and comprehensive real-life view of a disaster situation.

“ENVI was used in this way to search for survivors and hasten damage assessment and relief delivery during the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and in the aftermath of the 2011Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

“The technology has piqued the interest of Australia’s emergency services agencies, which are now eager to see how it can complement their strategies locally.”  

Ms Muleh has been invited to Australia to meet with local emergency services agencies in partnership with Dr Dipak Paudyal, a remote sensing and imagery expert at Esri Australia – and the local ENVI expert.

Dr Paudyal said during these meetings, they would be discussing how ENVI could help Australia’s emergency services save both lives and property during natural disasters.

“One of the ways the technology can help Australia’s emergency responders is by providing them with a clear understanding of how an area affected by a natural disaster has changed over the duration of a crisis,” Dr Paudyal said.

“During a flood, for example, the technology can be loaded with data and images that capture the impacted area before, during and after the event.

“Emergency personnel can then run sophisticated analysis that automatically highlights any important differences in the images, such as roads or infrastructure that have been inundated by the flood.

“By viewing data in this way, they can clearly see what has been damaged, where access points are, and what the ongoing impact could be – enabling rescuers to make more informed decisions about how to reach people that need their help.

“The analysis can also be continuously updated as new images come in and disseminated via mobile devices to ensure rescue workers have access to a real-time picture of the flood as it progresses and the situation on the ground changes.”

Dr Paudyal said in Australia, many emergency services agencies were interested in how the technology could aid with emergency preparation – to create a compelling depiction of a disaster before it’s even on the radar.

“For example, emergency services agencies could conduct hyper-realistic flood modelling to see exactly how an area may be impacted when inundated – so they can put evacuation and mitigation strategies in place well before a flood event occurs.”

Dr Paudyal said Australia’s recent history of severe flood and fire events meant emergency services needed access to the latest advances in natural disaster response.

“This technology has proven successful in the face of some of the world’s worst natural disasters for over a decade now,” Dr Paudyal said.

“Recent advancements have made it more usable and accessible to first responders and other emergency personnel that ever before.

“In a country as vulnerable to large-scale natural catastrophes as Australia, it is a not a matter of if, but when the next disaster hits.

“It is therefore imperative that our emergency service organisations have access to the best available resources, so they can continue to support Australians when they need it most.”