PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE Dear fellow information professionals
Welcome to 2020.
In Australia, the new year started with horrific bushfires that decimated our beautiful country. As of today, 28 lives were lost, over a billion native animals perished, an estimated 10.7 million hectares of land and forests burnt and over 5,900 buildings demolished, including 2,200 homes.
We acknowledge the firefighters, our tireless heroes who have been battling this enormous war against fire for many weeks.
We dedicate this IIM newsletter to people in need of information to understand their situation and make smarter and informed decisions about their safety and well-being.
Although fire is a natural phenomenon in our environment, fire weather in Australia is clearly becoming more extreme and the fire seasons are longer. As climate change is projected to exacerbate the warming and drying of our continent, there will be an increase in fuels that are drier and more ready-to-burn. We are likely to face an increase in the number of days where the fire danger is characterised as “severe”.
Understanding the key factors relevant for the fire management and having right information are fundamental for the situational awareness and proper planning, preparedness, response and action as fire-driven disasters are becoming our reality. We as a nation must be more rational in the way we collect and use the available data to improve our understanding of our fire-prone environment, to make smarter decisions that will help us prevent fire disasters and proactively manage risks.
But most critically we all need to consider our own role, actions and lifestyle choices to reduce our impact on the natural environment, as climate change will continue to devastate communities across the world if we do not take action now.
On behalf of the IIM, I wish you a safe, healthy and bushfire-free decade.
Vladimir Videnovic National President
INFORMED ABOUT BUSHFIRE Being informed is crucial in an emergency. When it comes to a bushfire, knowing what is happening, how far away is the fire front, is the fire under control, is the current location a safe place, which roads are blocked or likely to become blocked, what to do, where to go, how to protect from the fire hazards, and when to leave are all important pieces of information that people need to consider when making decisions that could reduce the risks to their lives, lives of others and to best protect their property.
AIR QUALITY INFORMATION MANAGEMENT The Bureau of Meteorology works closely with State and Territory fire agencies to support their operations and keep Australians safe, including the acquisition of information from the State and Territory health and environment agencies, which are responsible for monitoring bushfire smoke and warning the community when the air quality exceeds safe levels.
Due to the bushfire crisis in Australia, since November several Australian cities have been measured as having the worst air quality in the world, for example Port Macquarie in Nov/Dec, and Canberra in Dec/Jan.
FIRE INFORMATION Fires in Australia are becoming more frequent and more devastating in their nature. The fire weather becomes more extreme and the fire seasons are longer. The projected warming and drying in southern and eastern parts of Australia will lead to generating fuels that are drier and more ready-to-burn, with an increase of days with severe fire danger. Fuel load and human activities are very important factors in increasing the risk of fire. However, weather conditions including drought, strong winds and extreme temperatures are a major cause that influences the number, intensity, manageability, speed and size of bushfires.
Understanding these factors and managing the information related to the weather conditions, eco-system vulnerabilities and situational awareness are essential for proper planning, preparedness, response and action when a fire-driven disaster strikes.
Fire Management Information Systems provide access to information concerning fire management activities. These systems integrate data from remote sensors and Geographic Information System (GIS) technologies to deliver information about fire locations and burned area information, which is used by natural resource managers, firefighters and general public to understand the associated risks, derive informed decisions and to accurately and timely plan, monitor and assess fire management activities.