About Us

​The Mapping and Planning Support (MAPS) group was established in response to the 2003 Canberra fires. The 2003 fires were the worst ever experienced in the Canberra region and resulted in the loss of 500 homes and four lives.  During the fires the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) was equipped with a sophisticated GIS for situation mapping but after almost three weeks of continuous operations ESA simply ran out of people to work the GIS. Learn more about MAPS early days.


Canberra, as the national capital, is home to the largest concentration per capita of GIS professionals in Australia.  But ESA had no way of knowing who these people are or how to call upon them.  MAPS was formed to provide the link between the emergency managers and volunteer GIS professionals.

What is Maps?

The Mapping and Planning Support (MAPS) group are qualified spatial or GIS professionals who volunteer under the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) to assist in providing mapping and GIS support to emergency incidents. ESA provides MAPS with training, systems, financial, administrative and leadership support.

The name MAPS was chosen as an acronym that describes the work undertaken. It also gives an indication of where the personnel sit within an Incident Management Team under the Australian Inter Agency Incident Management System.

What We Do?

The ACT ESA has an ‘all hazards’ focus, thus MAPS members can find themselves assisting with all kinds of emergency situations. Training on GIS use for all hazards is available so that MAPS can function across all emergency service agencies. When deployed, MAPS is attached directly to the Incident Management Team rather than a particular RFS Brigade or SES Unit. Most of the work MAPS perform is around major bushfires, searching for missing persons and during damaging weather events.

MAPS members produce maps to suit the incident and the environment they are in. These may include fire incident products such as a state wide map showing location of all current fires, a localised fire map showing area burnt with current fire edge, expected fire edge and control operations. Other incidents may require a map showing properties affected by an incident such as flooding and specific search area maps for Search and Rescue.

We also support RFS air observers to assist them in mapping the current fire front, hot spots, remote sensing etc. The ESA operates a very user friendly ESRI based mapping system which most spatial professionals will master with minimal training.

How Do We Operate?

50 volunteers including supervisors.

Our Volunteers

MAPS volunteers are spatial professionals as opposed to fire experts.  In 2018 the MAPS “call me when needed” member register lists up to fifty volunteer members including ten supervisors.  These volunteers are GIS professionals from the ACT region, either retired or working in the private or public sectors.


They undertake specialist training twice a year in:

  • Emergency Incident management systems – where mapping fits, who is in charge, etc

  • NSW RFS software -  the ICON incident management system, the MapDesk GIS mapping program, RFS spatial data catalog

  • Software used by other emergency management agencies

Our Supervisors
  • Fill an on-going weekly Duty Callout Roster

  • Lead deployments

  • Manage the membership register

  • Organise training, documentation, protocols

  • Undertake further training in bush fire fighting, RFS systems, command and control, etc

  • Additionally, the two Executive Supervisors attend regular coordination meetings with ESA

  • Current list of supervisors

Our Partnerships

MAPS works by developing partnerships and relationships with emergency management agencies and organisations. During deployment volunteers embed themselves within the operations section of the partnering organisation. They then seamlessly provide GIS and map production support during the emergency. This could be at any major emergency across Australia. 


MAPS Volunteers were first deployed to an Emergency Incident in December 2006,  when two foundation members provided bushfire mapping services to NSW RFS at the Tumut Fire Control Centre.   Since then our Volunteers have provided a total of nearly 750 person days of assistance to emergency service agencies across eastern Australia.  For more information see the report MAPS Deployment Days By Emergency Incident extracted from our MAPS Management database. View pictures of deployments.