Bushfires in Australia have killed more than 25 people, decimated Australia’s wildlife, and are expected to rack up historically high damage costs of multiple billions of dollars — and they’re still burning.
During and after a natural disaster, response organizations need accurate information — every minute counts in saving lives. Real-time information helps paint a more complete picture of where affected people are located, so that resources like food, water, and medical supplies can be efficiently distributed where they are needed most. We launched Facebook Disaster Maps specifically to help fill information gaps during these events. So when the Australia fires began, we quickly shared real-time maps with our more than 100 Data for Good partners. Those maps illustrate how populations are evacuating and whether they have access to cellular networks, which are helping response organizations optimize their response efforts. To help support and amplify the efforts of our community, we will also be matching up to AU$1 million in donations made to GlobalGiving and donating AU$250,000 to the Australian Red Cross.
Currently, Disaster Maps in Australia are being used by a range of national and international relief, response, and academic organizations. Direct Relief, a humanitarian aid organization focused on health and emergency response, is using these tools to analyze evacuation proceedings and has plans to distribute more than 500,000 respiratory masks to the Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales. Direct Relief first used Disaster Maps to respond to the Thomas Fire and Montecito mudslides of December 2017 and January 2018 to learn how large numbers of people behave during crisis events and to develop insights about how best to respond to medical needs.