Don’t wait until the next disaster hit our country to offer your help. Let’s get prepared now and help each other by contributing in a small way towards a society where we give a helping hand to our neighbours and show our support to our community and our appreciation for team work and innovation.
Hi guys. Ian Tilley here.
Back in 2009, while living in Cairns, QLD, I lived through some of the most intense episodes during fierce cyclones impacting the region. For days before and after each cyclone would come through I struggled to find the most basic information about what was going on.
For weather information I’d constantly check the Bureau of Meteorology website. I’d also check the ABC for any news update about what was going on in the area. To find out if the nearby roads were flooded, I would have to check live traffic website as well as local emergency services and councils' websites, and all of this while packing and getting ready to either hunker down or evacuate. Making the right decision was important, but hard to do when the information was spread over so many different websites.
It was deeply frustrating. There was clearly a need to be met but the internet, back then, wasn’t what it is now.
Fast forward to 2017 and Cyclone Debbie. The same issues were plain to see, but there was a lot more information available from many more organisations involved in supporting communities during cyclone events as well as during the recovery phase after the cyclone had passed.
So, as Tropical Cyclone Debbie approached the Queensland coast, I had the idea then to put together a one stop online information point and the Crisis Dashboard was born. Within 48 hours of launching a cyclone dashboard for Cairns and Townsville and sharing those dashboards with my friends that lived in the region, I had over 13,000 people using the website prototype cyclonedashboard.com.au within the first week.
My passion to help communities at this point led me to pursue a Master of Philosophy at UNSW on the use of Open Data to help people during natural disasters.
In the following years, I developed and maintained around 30 individual crisis dashboards for cities around Australia and nearby countries that were hit by cyclones, bushfires or floods.
Australia’s worst ever bushfire crisis in 2019-20 was impetus to take these dashboards to the next level, I spent all of that Christmas and New Year at home with my wife Jeni working on updating the Crisis Dashboard webpages for affected areas like Mallacoota, East Gippsland, Central Coast, Wollondilly and planning the next phase of the dashboards development.
At the time there was only a handful of state based bushfire apps available but with very limited information. They showed if a fire was in the area, but not much more information than that. What were the road conditions? Were there other emergencies nearby? What were the local SES and Fire Units doing? What was local council doing? And what if you needed to know what was happening in another state or territory?
What if you were travelling across several states and needed up to date local information as you travelled?
READI APP was born out of a simple idea to fuse data from pertinent local and state agencies into one national app with critical information people need to protect themselves and their properties.
READI APP integrates information from a variety of feeds to show on one map:
A national view of bushfire warnings and fire incidents.
Detailed incident information (where available) for all states.
Traffic information on closed or hazardous roads (NT coming soon).
Bureau of Meteorology near-real-time weather warnings.
Local Government information feeds
Feeds from local SES and Fire Units
For a full list of features and to test drive the app please visit:
readiapp website here
My passion over the years has led me to pursue an MPhil at UNSW researching how open data can be used to help people during natural disasters, I am not in this to make money, but aim for Readi to be sustainable without depending on advertising, or selling your data.
What you see now will remain free.
Your donations here will help towards paying for the development of the app and the annual costs of hosting, updating and bug fixing and improvements.
Any contribution large or small will be greatly appreciated and will help us tremendously as we are self-funded and without any government grants or support.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
The Team at READI APP: Ian & Jeni Tilley
Below are some real life examples of WHY we need this app:
Scenario 1 : Preparation – Emergency example : Bushfire
On the Victorian side of the river, Walwa local Robert Newnham and his fellow volunteer firefighters still have vivid memories of watching the fire approach from New South Wales that day.
"We could see the fire, we could see that there was people there, we didn't know what they were doing or what was coming our way really, we were just guessing," he said.
"We needed to know a lot more so that we could prepare more for what was coming our way."
Despite the NSW fire crew being within about a kilometre, Mr Newhnam said they had no way of communicating with them. That's because different state fire and emergency services operate on different radio networks and in some instances different agencies within states also operate on different networks.
"That's been an issue for many, many years now, that we've both got radios in our trucks but we can't talk to each other," Mr Newnham said.
"We can get angry but the main thing is to get something done about it."
Scenario 2 : Response - Emergency example : Bushfire
On the NSW side of the border, Community Safety Officer for the Jingellic Rural Fire Service (RFS), Mary Hoodless, said it had been a problem for the 35 years she had been in the border region.
"It's an issue on every occasion and it was exacerbated on this occasion," she said.
"For me, it's like, where's the common platform? You know, the technology's there. Why haven't we got it?"
This week Ms Hoodless will tell the bushfire royal commission how difficult the natural disaster was for border communities.
"There's a lot of border crossings with populations that have been highly impacted by that lack of communication," she said.
"We can only hope coming out of the royal commission, that we do see some
improvement." Former NSW Fire and Rescue Commissioner Greg Mullins said he takes some responsibility. "People like me need to take a bit of blame for this because we didn't do a lot about it in years gone by, but it's now time to get that Australia-wide radio net," he said.
"Technically it can be done, it's just having the will to do it, having the money to do it."
Mr Mullins said in the past it was not as critical, because fires and firefighters rarely crossed state borders. It is not just an issue for border communities, with fire crews increasingly travelling interstate to assist on big fires.
"We had firefighters from every state and territory, from the US, New Zealand, even Papua New Guinea," Mr Mullins said.
"For example, the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade units in regional NSW not being able to speak to the local units on their radio channels, Country Fire Authority from Victoria [had] the same issue."
Scenario 3 : Prevention- Emergency example : Cyclone
Far North Queensland is often impacted by Severe Tropical Cyclones. The region is popular with domestic and international tourists and, outside of the regional centres like Cairns and Townsville, is sparsely populated. Public transport options are limited and infrequent so getting around the region depends on access to a car. When cyclones impact the region around Cairns, roads can often be cut off due to landslides, fallen trees or flooding.
Councils in that region do a good job of dealing with the impact of these seasonal events but there are many different councils that complement the many different emergency response agencies and it can be hard to know where to find accurate and up-to-date information. A land slip on the Kuranda range road could add hours to your journey by having to take 1 of two alternative routes, both through different councils and both prone to closures for a multitude of reasons.
Aggregating this information into one location can help people in the region track the progress of the Cyclone, see its impact on the region and take action to prevent being stranded in a sparsely populated area in need of help. This tool is especially helpful to the tourists that frequent the region and who are the lifeblood of the local economy. Visitors using the National Crisis Dashboard to familiarise themselves with the area, the agencies operating in the area and the progress of the cyclone can prevent loss of life and property and protect the local tourist economy.
- Ross Dawson
- Carol Sae-Yang
- Simon Mundy
- Victoria Buckley
Fundraising team: READi Team (2)
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