The challenge

Emergencies require rapid collection of data

In the event of a natural disaster or other emergency, access to accurate and timely situational analysis is critical.

Graphic representing ERIC

In emergencies, a clear and accurate understanding of the situations is essential for an effective response.

We created ERIC to integrate data from numerous government agencies to provide a clear and accurate understating of emergency situations for Department of Human Services workers.

The data is displayed in a web-based map which allows department workers to see what’s going on in real time, so that they can better serve Australians.

ERIC can reduce the time take to assemble a situation report from a few hours to 20 minutes, helping the department deliver the right help in the right place at the right time.

For the Department of Human Services, emergency situations require rapid aggregation of information from a range of sources, from state emergency services to national bodies like the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

When responding to an emergency, the department requires a clear, easily accessible snapshot of the situation.

Until recently, department personnel collated information and produced reports manually in a time-consuming process. The department had a clear priority to make situation reports as timely and accurate as possible.

Our response

Introducing Emergency Response Intelligence Capability

Working with the department, through the Human Services Delivery Research Alliance, we developed Emergency Response Intelligence Capability (or ERIC) software to automate situation reporting during large-scale emergency events.

ERIC integrates data from a range of state and federal agency sources (including state emergency services, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Bureau of Meteorology, and state road authorities) into a single web-based map interface. This allows department staff to view where and how conditions are affecting the area, in real time.

[Music plays and text appears:  Improving disaster recovery time with ERIC] 

[Image changes to show Tamati Shepherd, General Manager, Digital Transformation Division, Department of Human Services] 

Tamati Shepherd:  ERIC is a really great example of where the Alliance and the relationship between CSIRO and the Department’s worked really well. 

[Image changes to show Robert Power, Research Team Leader, CSIRO] 

Robert Power:  ERIC is a web-based productivity tool that combines information from over a dozen State-based emergency services agencies and puts it all in one spot. 

[Images changes to show ERIC software in use, with different locations flagged on a map of Australia] 

The ERIC tool gets its authoritative information from the emergency services agencies but at the same time there’s also a wealth of information reported on social media from the public who have been affected by events, and this tells us how the community is being affected by the emergency event as it’s unfolding. 

[Image changes to show Lucy Knight, Assistant Director, Emergency Management, Department of Human Services] 

Lucy Knight:  We’re then able to use that information on the map of Australia, combine it with the demographic information of the communities that are affected.  That allows us to make better decisions in responding to emergencies. 

[Images changes to show ERIC in use, with different locations flagged on map of Australia] 

ERIC stands for Emergency Response and Intelligence Capability and that’s exactly what it gives us.

[Image has changed back to Lucy Knight]

The main benefit for us is having access to information when we need it and knowing also what information is changed from the last time we looked at it.  So you might look at the information available at nine o’clock and then go back at six minutes past nine and the information is different, and unless you’ve taken mental note you may not always know the difference between that.  ERIC allows us to do that. 

[Images changes to show the team in discussion in an office setting] 

The ERIC project team from CSIRO spent a lot of time trying to get to know us and what our processes were, and that was the most important thing for them up-front is: what does the Department actually do?  What are the steps you need to take?  What are the things you need to look at?  So much as when we would activate to respond to an emergency we had a couple of their teams sit with us for a while and just watch and observe.

[Image has changed back to Robert Power] 

Robert Power:  The tool allows them to do their job faster which means that they can then value-add more.

[Image has changed back to Lucy Knight]

Lucy Knight:  It’s actually changed how we manage our own responses and how we do our own things and it allowed us to go back critically and look at our procedures to say ‘well is this the best way we can do it?’  Having someone work so closely and being outside has pushed us to be a better team. 

[Text appears with CSIRO and Department of Human Services logos:  The Human Services Delivery Research Alliance used innovative technologies, research and approaches to support an evidence-based, sustainable national service delivery program] 

[Music plays and CSIRO logo appears with text: Big ideas start here]

ERIC’s reports are also captured and stored within a consolidated database, allowing department personnel to retrieve regular historical snapshots where once only the latest situational analysis was available.

The software also provides department personnel with automated situation reports to replace previous manual reporting – reducing the time taken per report from a few hours to as little as 20 minutes.

The results

Aiding bushfire recovery

Elements of ERIC were successfully tested during bushfires in the summer of 2012-13. The tests demonstrated the opportunities for government agencies to leverage data from emergency services agencies for significant secondary purposes, including post-emergency claims and infrastructure management.

We are now investigating possibilities for expanding ERIC’s scope, including potential integration with other CSIRO tools like our Emergency Situation Awareness software that tracks social media trends and data during disaster events.

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