Victoria Police win technology award for bushfire response

Force acknowledged for their world-first use of mapping technology during a bushfire disaster

Victoria Police has won an award for being the first organisation to use Geographical Information System (GIS) to transmit critical information directly from a fire affected area to a command post.

Equipped with handheld computers containing a built-in digital camera and GPS, police on the ground were able to send information about the progress of bushfire stricken area searches to a central point which was displayed on a map.

Police at the command post could then look at the map online and see the areas that had been searched in real time, aiding them in the decision process.

Victoria Police will receive a "technology users" award for its use of the mapping system during the bushfire clean-up.

Acting senior sergeant Greg Barrass is to receive the internationally-recognised award on behalf of the force this week.

Barras, who is in San Diego for the ceremony, told Nine News it was a great coup for the organisation.

"We had no sign posts and we had no street numbers for the houses and properties that were devastated by fire, so we were able to use a hand-held application which told us exactly where we were on the Earth’s surface," Barras said.

American fire mapping veteran, Tom Patterson, who flew to Victoria to help the police use the mapping technology, said this is "a really big deal in the wildland fire service and the GIS world".

The mapping technology helped the police sift through the bushfire remains faster, enabling them to declare the land safe for residents to return.

"We were police with no formal training in GIS but had a load of support with offers of assistance from all over the world," Barrass said. "We have been using similar technology for years, but the transmission of data from the fire front was world-first."