Forget the Politics — These Fires Require Action

Our nation is burning…

Homes are being wiped out…

People are dying…

To say this week has exacted a heavy toll doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Worse still, it is likely just the beginning.

Summer, technically, hasn’t even arrived.

What is truly disgusting, though, is how politicised this tragedy has become. When we needed our leaders to step up most, they instead stooped to new lows.

I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am.

The finger-pointing from the Greens, Nationals, Labor, and Liberals has been appalling. All sides have been using these fires to push their own agenda. It’s sickening, and shows just how out of touch these people are.

There is no rhyme or reason for laying blame right now. What we need is action. To help the victims now, and the victims that will come.

Otherwise, if we don’t, the toll will only rise.

Victorians know all too well the cost of inaction. 10 years ago our rural communities endured the worst fires ever seen in our state: Black Saturday.

The shameful response from our politicians ended up costing us $4 billion. Not that the dollar figure can compare to the 173 lives lost.

We must try to avoid another disaster like this at all costs. And we do have the means to do better.

It’s time we did more than just fight fires. It’s time to outsmart them…

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A new arsenal of data

Today, our most underutilised tool to fight fires is information.

You’ll hear it talked about all the time within at risk communities. Planning and preparation is key to providing the best chance of survival.

This is because fires are wild, unpredictable, and swift. A situation can turn from calm to calamitous in a matter of moments.

Again, as we saw during the Black Saturday events, failing to update people was a major problem. The systems and people in place failed those who were relying on them.

Our rural communities deserve and need better. Outdated systems are a disgrace that cannot be tolerated.

Just think where the $4 billion lost could have gone to upgrade or put in place better technology.

This is just the basic stuff though. The bare minimum that should be required.

Beyond this though, there are even more advanced solutions that need consideration. The power of data in particular must be looked at.

The ability to predict and model fires is not some pipedream. It’s very real and very possible. California has been doing it for some time now.

By using these same techniques we could provide better response times. Because even a few extra minutes could be the difference between life and death.

For example, we’ve seen authorities come out and condemn civilians using drones near the fires this week. And they are right to do so, it is a risk that has interfered with waterbombing vehicles in the past.

However, drones should be considered by the authorities themselves. Integrating them into their practices could help provide the kind of data I’m talking about. Providing a real-time, bird’s eye perspective from multiple devices.

As David Tuffley from Griffith University notes:

These technologies can converge to gather a diverse range of data, helping us make predictions about the likelihood of an event occurring in a specific location with more speed and accuracy than ever before.

Such predictions provide timely and targeted information that can greatly aid emergency services in doing their job, especially as they often have stretched resources on the ground.

If they won’t, we’ll have to

Now, I’ve provided just a small example of the possibilities out there. No doubt there are plenty of other alternatives as well.

My point though, is that unless they are developed or put to use, it’s pointless.

Someone is going to have to step up.

It’s clear to me that the politicians aren’t the ones who will. So, it’ll have to fall to third parties to find working solutions.

This is where the real innovators will have to take charge. People or businesses that can provide solutions to tackle the challenge of bushfires.

Take a company like Nearmap Ltd [ASX:NEA] for instance. They provide detailed aerial data that is used by a range of industries.

Incorporating this mapping data into our firefighting toolkit would be a good first step.

It could help identify at-risk areas ahead of time. Perhaps even identify regions in need of back burning.

The tools are available, it’s up to the experts how or if they use them.

And this is what we need to focus on. Not the quibbling and name-calling, but the potential solutions at our disposal.

Because if we don’t more homes will burn, more lives will be lost this summer. And that is a cost that we cannot afford to keep bearing.


Ryan Clarkson-Ledward,
Editor, Money Weekend

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Ryan Clarkson-Ledward is an Editor at Money Morning.

Ryan holds degrees in both communication and international business. He helps bring Money Morning readers the latest market updates, both locally and abroad. Ryan tackles all the issues investors need to know about that the mainstream media neglects.

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