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Latrobe Valley getting hold of real-time data before devastation hits

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During the recent flood crisis that devastated the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, particularly the town of Lismore, the State Emergency Service (SES) was criticized for its warnings and evacuation instructions.

An evacuation order was initially put in place for Lismore CBD on March 29 and was lifted the same afternoon, only to be reinstated at 3am the next day. The state government has since set up an independent inquiry to examine and report on the cause, preparedness, response and recovery from the flood.

But with catastrophic weather events like these only getting worse, some parts of the country, such as Latrobe City Council in Region Victoria, believe they have equipped the local community with the right tools to keep them going. informed and respond appropriately to any potential emergency.

The local council and its Local Emergency Management Plan Committee worked with Attentis to deploy the Latrobe Valley Information Network (LVIN), comprised of 44 AI-powered environmental monitoring sensors to enable anyone – from emergency services to residents – to view real-time localized snapshots of wind speed, precipitation, air quality, humidity, temperature.

Each sensor unit has four cameras and can monitor environmental factors such as fire, smoke, and other severe weather phenomena such as storms and lightning. It can also produce thermal images of the local forest.

“The real benefit of having this network is being able to give the community the information they need to be informed of emergencies, especially fires and storms,” ​​Lance King, Latrobe Council’s emergency management officer, told ZDNet.

The need to share this information with the community, King said, was further underscored by devastating events such as the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009, when the Morwell River collapsed at the Yallourn mine in 2012, and the Hazelwood Coal Mine fire in 2014, which burned for 45 days and left towns in the Latrobe Valley covered in smoke and coal dust.

“We call the town of Latrobe the ‘Disneyland of Emergencies,'” King said.

“The smoke during the Hazelwood fire was so heavy that we had to move entire schools and communities… it even impacted the hospital and working conditions for much of the community and people in their own homes.”

Following the installation of the LVIN, King said emergency services have since been able to use it to support weather events, including during the devastating 2019-2020 bushfires.

“It’s just another tool for the community to improve our lives,” he said.

As next steps, Attentis said it will shortly build a live flood monitoring network for the LVIN to monitor high-risk rivers and streams in real time and provide early warning to the local community.

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