Using Crowd Sourced Content to Help Manage Emergency Events

  • Robert PowerEmail author
  • Bella Robinson
  • Catherine Wise


The Emergency Situation Awareness (ESA) tool provides crowd-sourced information in near-real-time from Twitter about all-hazard events for emergency managers. ESA currently collects tweets from Australia and New Zealand and processes them to identify unexpected incidents, to monitor ongoing emergency events and provides access to an archive to explore past events. It is operated using a map based interactive web site and has processed over 2 billion tweets since September 2011. ESA has been developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and has been trialed by numerous emergency services organisations throughout Australia. Tweets are processed as a data stream using text mining techniques and natural language processing tools to identify content relevant to emergency managers. ESA is deployed as a distributed information architecture consisting of a combination of commodity open source technologies, such as an Apache Solr index, a relational database, messaging infrastructure, web servers and supporting software toolkits, as well as purpose built components for message burst detection, event identification and notification, message classification and clustering, geo-coding and searching. In this chapter, an overview of ESA is presented showing how tweets are gathered and processed. Three case studies are outlined explaining how ESA is used to detect earthquakes, monitor bushfire events and as a general all-hazard monitoring tool in a crisis coordination centre. We also note some of the issues we have encountered from using our tool and present an overview of our research road map noting the planned extensions and new features.


Disaster Management Situation Awareness Situation Reporting System Architectures Social Media Twitter 



There have been many CSIRO staff involved in the ESA project. The authors thanks the contributions of colleagues Mark Cameron, John Colton, Sarvnaz Karimi, Andrew Lampert, John Lingad, Peter Marendy, David Ratcliffe, Saguna, Brooke Smith, Gavin Walker, Allan Yin, Jie Yin and Emily Zhou. There has also been further CSIRO support of ESA from senior management and business development: thanks to Sarah Dods, Alan Dormer, Simon Dunstall, Dimitrios Georgakopoulos, Iftah Gideoni, Charlie Hawkins, Ron Jones, Michael Kearney, Ian Oppermann and Cecile Paris.

There have been numerous collaborators from agencies supporting this work, especially Anthony Clarke (New South Wales Rural Fire Service), Jim Dance and Andrew Grace (Attorney-General’s Department), Daniel Jaksa (Geoscience Australia) and Adam Moss (Queensland Department of Community Safety).

Special note should be made to Bella Robinson who has been the main developer and architect of the ESA tool; Mark Cameron who originally came up with the concept for the tool, devised the alerting algorithm and has been responsible for gathering most of the user requirements; and John Colton who has provided oversight for the project and been the main contact point for user agencies.

The ESA project was originally financially supported by the Australian Government through the National Security Science and Technology Branch within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CSIRO Data61CanberraAustralia

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