Prior to the bushfires of 2009, the official policy of emergency services in the event of bushfire was “stay and defend”. As a result of the intensity of the Black Saturday fires, and the resulting loss of life, this policy is now changed, and evacuation is a possibility. However there is very limited knowledge of how evacuation could be managed, in the Australian context. There is no knowledge of how long an evacuation would take in various areas, even under normal conditions, much less under impending fire conditions. Because the road is the most dangerous place to be when the fire comes, personnel are very reluctant to evacuate people, without much better knowledge of how this would play out under different scenarios. Substantial exploration of a wide range of scenarios is critical to understanding how evacuation planning and policy might be developed. There are also many issues around coordination between the diferent services (e.g. SES, CFA, police), and exploration of different approaches is needed. It is not viable to obtain needed information primarily by analysis of events after the fact. There is so much uncertainty, and so many possible factors, that manual analysis of likely future scenarios is too limited.
This project has developed an interactive simulation to allow an emergency services incident controller to experiment with different decisions about evacuation scheduling, evacuation locations and evacuation routes. Both the incident controller and the residents are modelled using a cognitive agent platform that facilitates realistic modelling of humans. As the simulation progresses it can be paused to examine the details of an agents decision making, and also to interactively control it.
This management of some of the “agents” in the simulation assists the user to better understand the effect of different actions and approaches in a real situation. By practising and seeing the consequences of different decisions and actions, effective learning is expected to occur. There are also possibilities for extensions to allow personnel to take on the roles of colleagues within the simulation, in order to develop a better understanding of the challenges faced in roles other than their own, and how the various roles interact in a crisis situation.
The example location used is Halls Gap, the scene of an actual planned evacuation during a bushfire.. The software developed can however be customised for any location. Street maps are sourced from Open Street Maps, address locations are sourced from the Victorian State Government and resident numbers are sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Click here to download windows GUI build.