Flooding is becoming more frequent and more severe, and it is predicted to get worse. In Australia alone, Natural disasters cost $13.2bn per year in economic damages. These losses are projected to triple to $39.3bn by 2050, even without considering climate change. Flooding causes 67% of these damages, an astounding 8.8bn per year.1
From 1987 to 2016, flooding has taken 218 lives in Australia with 28% of all deaths caused by natural disasters. Often, these deaths are caused when people are caught in flood waters or drive through flooded roads. The World Bank estimates that at least 35% of flood damages are preventable with better warning systems.
FloodMapp is a rapidly growing technology company working with emergency managers to prevent damages and loss of life. CEO & Co-founder Juliette Murphy worked in the field of flood engineering and hydrology for well over a decade across Australia, south-east Asia and North America. After experiencing several flood events first-hand and their effect on friends and family, Murphy was motivated to improve flood early systems and emergency response. Partnering with CTO and Co-founder Ryan Prosser, a software engineer with experience in scalable infrastructure, they launched the company.
Preventable flood damage includes lost lives, vehicles, business and retail supply chain issues, economic losses, safety incidents, misrouting and poor logistics, business interruption and lost productivity, flooded mobile and immovable assets and operational inefficiency.
Many of these deaths, safety incidents and damages are caused because individuals and businesses do not understand that they or their assets are at risk. This is because current flood forecasting systems and data provided are too broad and aren’t integrated with the mapping tools used by individuals and businesses today. This is a repeatable problem experienced not just in Australia but across Asia and globally. Government agencies such as the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) use meteorology and hydrology modelling for flood forecasts. Their warnings are therefore communicated as peak flood height and related to rivers or catchments. They are often presented as a broad area on a map at a state level or a text-based flood warning.
‘The efficacy of these warnings relies on businesses and individuals having knowledge of their coastal and river systems, the surrounding terrain characteristics, asset floor height and the gauge ID and elevation datum of the nearest river or tidal gauge. Typically, businesses and individuals do not have this knowledge, and without it, they may not know the impact of the flooding on nearby roads, their assets, or properties,’ said Ms Murphy.
Emergency managers are often left unprepared with limited data. Lacking situational awareness or a common operating picture on what specific locations will be affected by flooding, and what the impact of the flooding may be, it is challenging to take practical steps to safely evacuate and prevent asset losses and damage. This has major safety and economic implications.
‘Imagine having a flood forecast issued as an interactive map,’ says Murphy. ‘That’s what we do at FloodMapp.’
In order to produce a flood forecast as a visual map to provide actionable insights, a third modelling step is required: hydraulic 2D flood modelling. Hydraulic modelling would take in the hydrological flood forecasts as a predicted river flow and height, and translate them into a predicted flood inundation extent area. Unfortunately, these types of models take a very long time to run, often over 48 hours for large areas, meaning that historically it has not been possible to undertake hydraulic modelling in real time for the purposes of flood forecasting.
To address this complex challenge, FloodMapp has created a groundbreaking rapid flood model technology called DASH, which has been purpose built for real-time flood inundation modelling and emergency management. Powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), DASH uses big data, machine learning and hydraulic and hydrology models to forecast and map flooding in real time, achieving 13,700 times faster run times than current solutions. The cloud-based technology balances the scale, accuracy and speed required for live mapping of flood inundation area and depth information in real-time.
These models ingest real-time and forecast rainfall data, coastal and real-time river height data through large-scale cloud-based data pipeline infrastructure, to rapidly predict peak river heights, and generate inundation mapping at scale over large spatial extents. DASH-2D forecasts the inundation extent and depth of an impending flood event down to an individual street address, with instantaneous updates to the prediction to reflect changes in the real-time data inputs. By automating the end-to-end process of rapid flood modelling and forecasting, DASH helps to offer more warning time and location-specific flood insights to businesses. FloodMapp’s AI-driven rapid flood forecasting and mapping system allows it to offer more coverage of flood forecasts, including in places where flood forecasts are currently not offered.
‘DASH technology powers our three products, Forecast, Nowcast and Postcast, which are designed to support all three stages of the emergency management process – before, during and after. They are delivered as a live mapping data feed (for example a web feature service) which can be ingested by emergency managers within commonly used mapping products such as Esri ArcGIS, QGIS or others,’ says Murphy. ‘This provides emergency managers with greater situational awareness of what impact the flooding will have on populations and assets, such as roads or critical infrastructure.’
The technology has been designed and built to be globally scalable and FloodMapp is already operational at state and national scales in QLD and in the USA.
‘We work with government agencies, utilities, logistics and insurers across Australia and the US. For infrastructure companies such as utilities, this allows early identification of substations and power networks that may be at risk of flooding, so that they can de-energise those parts of the network to maintain public safety. For governments, it means that they can provide communities with more warning time and impact-based flood forecasts in a format that can be understood by the general public. For insurers, this enables messaging to policyholders to prevent claims and subsequently financial losses.’ says Ms Murphy.
‘We’re even working on an innovative pilot with emergency managers in Virginia to integrate FloodMapp Nowcast into a traffic app to enable real-time traffic routing of drivers around flooded roads. We expect this to have significant impacts on the coastal communities, who suffer from flooding frequently.’
FloodMapp’s team are on a mission to improve safety and prevent damage on a global scale. Their vision is to ultimately offer products in all countries that suffer from flooding, to help governments and businesses everywhere become more resilient to flooding and adapt to a changing climate.
For more information, go to www.floodmapp.com
- Deloitte, 2018: http://australianbusinessroundtable.com.au/assets/documents/ABR_building-resilience-in-our-states-and-territories.pdf