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Victoria 2009 - Black Saturday


During the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires, Australia’s worst natural disaster, MAPS was deployed with Victoria Police for over 6 weeks. The MAPS deployment, initially to rural Victoria, then to Water Police headquarters in Melbourne, was the longest sustained deployment ever undertaken by ESA. The MAPS volunteers worked 12 to 14 hour days, sometimes in crowded improvised work spaces, sometimes dealing with sensitive and confronting information but always professional and cheerful. Ordinary GIS Professionals doing extraordinary things. To give you a better understanding of the size of the deployment some of the stats and numbers around the emergency were:


The Victorian Fires 7 February to 14 March 2009


  • 173 people confirmed dead

  • More than 2,000 homes affected 

  • 421,670 hectares of public and private land burnt


Victoria Police and Australian Defence Forces searched every affected property for human remains. They needed:

  • Overview and planning maps

  • Detailed maps of fire affected areas

  • Tactical maps showing which properties had been searched and which were yet to be completed


The Victorian Coroner also requested very detailed post fire imagery maps for the site of each fatality.

The Water Police and Search and Rescue Squad were charged with managing the search.  They had ready access to official state government spatial information, some hardware, some software and a couple of experienced GIS users. 


The spatial information and IT industries provided:

  • Additional hardware, servers and networks

  • Unlimited software licences

  • Software support

  • Pre and post fire imagery


MAPS provided:

  • 9 groups of 4 to 8 people for 5 to 6 days at a time over a 6 week period

  • 44 people in total,  36 deployed once, 7 deployed twice and 1 deployed 3 times

  • 306 person days or approximately 3600 hours of unpaid work

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