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Facebook has explained how real-time map data generated by users helps with disaster relief throughout Australia.
Australia is in the grip of one of the worst environmental disasters in history. The forest fires have consumed more than 15 million hectares, killed the lives of at least 27 people, and an estimated more than a billion animals have been killed – with rescuers running to save creatures from areas destroyed by fire and letting food escape in the hope to prevent further loss of life due to hunger.
Up to 50 mm of rain has now fallen in areas in New South Wales and Victoria, causing some of the fires to be extinguished – but many more continue to devastate the country. Thunderstorms and lightning have also led to a number of new fires.
Rescuers and firefighters, both professional and voluntary, continue to tackle the fires and help the besieged members of the general public.
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We know of some disaster mechanisms from Facebook, such as the possibility to mark ourselves as ‘safe’ during incidents. It is therefore interesting to see how information generated by social network users is used by people in Australia.
Facebook’s disaster cards are collections of real-time data points generated by network users who enable location services and location history. Within 24 hours of a reported disaster, responders can use these cards to help them “act quickly and efficiently to save lives,” the company said.
Four cards are shared with agencies: the south coast of New South Wales; Eastern Gippsland in Victoria; the Green Wattle Creek Fire in New South Wales; and the Cudlee Creek Fire in South Australia.
More than 100 Data for Good partners have access to these cards, including those involved in humanitarian efforts. Direct Relief, for example, uses the maps to track evacuations and plans to distribute more than 500,000 breathing masks to firefighters in Victoria and New South Wales.
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“These maps illustrate how populations evacuate and whether they have access to mobile networks that help response organizations optimize their response efforts,” says Facebook.
“Such real-time information helps responders effectively deploy resources to serve the most needy survivors and protect vulnerable populations by providing a more complete picture of where the affected people are,” the company added.
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Facebook has also pledged AU $ 250,000 to the Australian Red Cross for disaster relief and recovery projects. Local non-profit organizations working on the ground for recovery efforts, supported by GlobalGiving, can also benefit because the social media giant corresponds to AU $ 1 million in donations made.
Donations submitted via Facebook’s Crisis Response pages for the forest fires in New South Wales and Victoria / South Australia will also be matched up to AU $ 1 million.
The social media giant contingency maps have previously been used in disaster efforts during the hurricanes Dorian and Barry, the Typhoon Tisoy in the Philippines and the recent earthquake in Puerto Rico with a magnitude of 6.4 on the Richter scale, leaving power over the entire territory was beaten and thousands of people had to flee to shelters. The aftershocks are still being felt.
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