The Hack: Bushfire Connect

May 30, 2011 - 21:29 -- Random Hacks of...

In the last year RHoK #1 Sydney's winning hack, Bushfire Connect, has been making an impact building community resilience for bushfires in Australia. Guest blogger Maurits van der Vlugt tells the Bushfire Connect story:

The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires burnt the equivalent of 1 million football fields, displaced 7,500 people across 78 townships, resulting in 173 dead and 2000 houses lost.

We know when bushfires happen, people want fast access to trustworthy information, whether that comes from official sources or not. For that purpose, a number of volunteers started Bushfire Connect in May 2010, and used the Sydney RHoK event in June of that year to develop its first functioning prototype. It was there that the Bushfire Connect team transformed a great idea into an installed and functioning proof-of-concept Ushahidi instance for presenting real time information submitted by local community members and emergency agencies.

See the post-event video summary here.

Bushfire Connect uses Ushahidi to aggregate information from multiple sources: official and social, about events and incidents such as community meetings, fires, and road closures, in a way that empowers anyone to contribute local knowledge and make informed decisions.

Since its inception in May 2010 the Bushfire Connect team has accomplished quite a few things: we've established a great core team, a steadily growing online following, and went 'live' in February 2011, just in time for the Perth fires. All this in 12 months, with purely volunteer input and a cash outlay of about $2000. It is highly doubtful we would have achieved this without RHoK!

We are looking forward to 2011-12, in which we will extend the BushfireConnect functionality, roll it out across Australia and include other hazards. We are again counting on the RHoK (Melbourne) team, to get us going!

You can follow our progress on:, and Twitter: @bushfireconnect