Data-driven decisions

Emergency response powered by GIS technology is ensuring better public safety

Mar 23, 2017

By their very nature, natural disasters are unpredictable, unavoidable and unrelenting.

Thanks to GIS technology, public safety agencies are now better equipped than ever to act swiftly in a crisis and effectively manage response and recovery efforts.

Emergency response is about the social wellbeing of Queenslanders, and you can’t compromise on that.


For example, at the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service (QFES), GIS is the enabler that puts vital data and information in context to improve the coordination of emergency response activities across the state.

QFES is one of the agencies responsible for delivering emergency services to communities throughout Queensland.

Leveraging the ArcGIS platform, their GIS solution, known as the Total Operational Mapping (TOM) system, operates with QFES’ other internal systems. It brings together information from various sources and organisations – the Bureau of Meteorology, Department of Transport and Main Roads, and Queensland Police – to create an interactive map of events as they occur. 

TOM visually represents near real-time emergency data on a map, translating complex scenarios into an easy-to-digest universal language that enables staff to quickly interpret large volumes of information.

As a result, decision making and response times have significantly improved and rescue staff and resources can now be appropriately allocated – saving lives and protecting property.

Without the insight provided by GIS technology, the response and recovery efforts would be severely hampered.


When tropical cyclones, severe storms and floods ravaged Queensland back in 2011, GIS technology allowed QFES to run scenario-based models and stay ahead of disasters before they fully unfolded. 

In one case, the system mapped storm tide inundation along the Queensland coast, so QFES could conduct predictive flood modelling and identify areas likely to be affected.

Armed with this location intelligence, QFES could evacuate communities and strategically position crews and manage resources, including evacuation centres and food drops, where they were clear of rising waters.

During Tropical Cyclone Yasi, the QFES also leveraged cutting-edge aerial GIS technology to convey information from the field back to the State Operations Coordination Centre.

Aerial Total Operational Mapping (A-TOM) is a GIS-driven aerial intelligence gathering tool used to map damage, flood impact, road closures, and threatened assets such as buildings and pump stations.

Today, using the ArcGIS platform, QFES have enhanced their GIS capabilities to help respond to a wide range of natural hazards. GIS tools have been woven into multiple business processes and activities, including risk planning in preparation for disasters.

A-TOM is a particularly vital resource for assessing and assisting disaster-affected communities that have become inaccessible by road. The system helps identify and prioritise where resources are needed – ensuring people can return to their homes as soon as possible.

Enabling collaboration with the Queensland Reconstruction Authority (QRA) using the ArcGIS platform, GIS is the cornerstone of response capabilities for the recovery and reconstruction of Queensland – enabling the QFES and QRA to build resilience and help the community quickly recover following natural devastation. 

Find out how GIS technology helps Emergency Services make better operational decisions and reduce disaster response times.