How Brisbane start-up found itself saving lives during floods

Juliette Murphy is, like a lot of Brisbane people, a veteran of floods – including the 2011 floods in her home city and another in Calgary, Canada, two years later.

Mar 02, 2022, updated Mar 02, 2022

Those experiences led Murphy and her Canadian partner Ryan Prosser to do something about it.

Social media followers of their start-up, Floodmapp, would have seen the regular updates on where the floodwaters were and where they were heading. It was a helicopter view that was detailed down to street level.

If you were in the middle of the disaster, it would have been vital information and proved as much for Murphy’s own family who were warned of the wall of water coming their way and were able to pack up and leave in time.

The company boasts that it was born out of the 2011 Brisbane floods and Juliette’s question: what could be done better?

The speed of reliable information appears to be the answer to that question.

We have been able to produce inundation maps in real time much faster than traditional modelling allows. We’ve benchmarked our model – called DASH – against traditional models and we are about 100,000 times faster,’’ the company said.

“We can also project scenarios more quickly so we can model several different scenarios in the time it would take to do just one traditionally.’’

That allows emergency services to warn the public of the threat. From previous experiences, Murphy and her team know that the data has worked to get information to people at risk. Emergency Services have used it to door knock those at threat and warn them.

The company is being integrated into Waze mapping (similar to Google Maps) in the US state of Virginia so motorists can see potential dangers ahead.

Floodmapps is still in its early days of development but was posting regularly on social media during the Brisbane flooding to warn the public of what was coming.

The real users of the data are governments, emergency services, councils and even charities.

But even armed with all the knowledge at Murphy and Prosser’s fingertips, tragedy still strikes.

Murphy posts to social media include the impact on her family who were armed with vital intelligence from Murphy.

“I have been working around the clock with our whole flood team to support emergency services and communities during the catastrophic flood event which has hit Queensland and northern NSW,’’ Murphy said.

“At FloodMapp we’ve had so many requests flowing in for help from government agencies, private entities and the general public in need of real-time flood intel to help them make critical decisions in their preparation, response and recovery. 

“But our company is still early and growing with limited resources, and it always breaks my heart when we can’t be there to help everyone in their moments of need.

“Meanwhile, my brother, sister and her partner have lost everything. They live in a beautiful, small remote community, The Channon, in northern NSW. 

“They were prepared: they knew their risk; they had a detailed flood evacuation plan. When the event approached, I helped them with intelligence on the rainfall and river rises in their catchment. 

“They proactively elevated and secured items, packed up dogs, chickens and valuable belongings and evacuated safely well ahead of time.

“Their catchment received 839mm of rainfall. The creek rose to 12.2 m before the gauge was inundated and stopped transmitting.‘’

While the disaster is still unfloding Floodmapp is assessing its role to get context about its uses. 



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