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Innovation improves disaster recovery services



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Innovation improves disaster recovery services

26 July 2013

Senator the Hon Jan McLucas Minister for Human Services

Senator The Hon Kim Carr Minister for Innovation, Industry Science and Research Minister for Higher Education

The Hon Dick Adams Member for Lyons

Six months on from the devastating Tasmanian bushfire, Minister for Human Services, Senator Jan McLucas visited Hobart today to thank department staff for supporting bushfire-affected communities and to launch a new emergency management tool that will help the Australian Government respond to future natural disasters.

Senator McLucas and Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr said the new tool developed during the 2012-13 disaster season in partnership with the CSIRO would help the Department of Human Services to plan its response to future emergencies by using local demographic data.

An early prototype of the Emergency Response Intelligence Capability web-based tool (ERIC) was tested during 2013 summer disaster season - including the Tasmanian bushfires - and performed well, with the tool to be incorporated into the department's service delivery for the 2014 summer disaster season.

"ERIC has been developed by the CSIRO as part of the Human Services Delivery Research Alliance," Senator McLucas said.

"It brings together demographic information from the department's own customer databases and publicly available information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics; as well as emergency warnings from the Bureau of Meteorology, rural fire authorities, state emergency services and emergency management authorities.

"ERIC provides staff with information on current emergency warnings combined with the demographic information of a particular community. This allows the department to quickly pull together relevant information to make informed service delivery decisions."

Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr said the ERIC was developed as part of a five-year partnership between CSIRO and the Department of Human Services.

"Using CSIRO's expertise and Human Services' experience, this partnership has resulted in a tool that will save time in emergency situations, meaning Department of Human Services staff can better monitor and plan for fast-changing emergency situations, such as the path of cyclones or bushfires," Senator Carr said.

CSIRO's Mr Mike Kearney, Director of the Human Services Delivery Research Alliance, said the ERIC program was developed using CSIRO's expertise in spatial information and data integration over the course of 12 months.

"Researchers adapted its features following feedback from regular meetings with the department's emergency management staff," Mr Kearney said.

"One of the aims of this project is to use innovative technologies and practices to provide a more efficient and effective national service delivery system."

Senator Jan McLucas thanked Department of Human Services in Sorell today for their tireless work to help bushfire-affected communities.

"Staff were already on the ground when the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment was activated on 6 January, providing support to those affected and a human face to Australian Government assistance," Senator McLucas said.

"They worked tirelessly - including across weekends - in service, recovery and evacuation centres and from the department's Mobile Service Centre at Sorell, Dunalley, Murdunna, Bicheno, Taranna and Ellendale, helping residents get back on their feet. Their commitment to serve the community in the wake of such a major disaster is to be commended."

More than 7000 claims for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment have been granted since the payment was activated, worth more than $7.9 million. Claims closed for this payment on 8 July in the Glamorgan-Spring Bay, Tasman and Sorell Local Government Areas, and claims will close in the Central Highlands on 9 September.

The Hon Dick Adams MP was pleased to see the development of ERIC as a tool that had been actual experience tested and although it doesn't replace the on the ground knowledge of particular weather patterns, it will be a useful tool for predicting fire directions and outcomes.

"These fires at the beginning of the year were difficult to predict and the firefighters had an immense job to try and contain them and despite all, they did a fantastic job. So I know this assistance will be welcomed."

Dick also took the opportunity to again thank all the volunteers, the Department people, the local State office of Rebecca White MHA, it was a huge effort by all.

"Rebecca and Rikki Mawad along with Mel Irons used facebook as a tool to provide almost instant help to many residents who lost their homes or direct volunteers to residents who still trying to survive in the South East after the fires."