Geographic visualisation tools for communicating flood risks to the public

Basic, F 2009, Geographic visualisation tools for communicating flood risks to the public, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Geographic visualisation tools for communicating flood risks to the public
Author(s) Basic, F
Year 2009
Abstract This research investigates whether the use of online, geographic visualisation tools designed for communicating flood risks could improve the public’s understanding and response to flood warnings. Flood warning is a vital part of flood management and mitigation. It deals with technology as well as social and community mechanisms. Much attention is given to technocratic aspects of the flood warning process while socially oriented aspects such as risk communication and community awareness are neglected. As a consequence, warning messages often fail to reach the majority of those at risk of flooding in time to ensure that informed safety and damage prevention decisions are made. The research presented is this thesis addresses this problem by developing and testing a method of improving the clarity, quality and efficiency of the delivery of flood warning messages, with the assistance of Internet technology. The method is set out in a framework designed as part of this research. The fundamental basis of the framework is to provide flood warnings and risk communication to the public using a graphic interface (maps), via the Internet. An advantage of using graphics is that they are a universal language that transcend language barriers and can help ‘show’ (not tell) those at risk the situation they may be facing. In addition to this, the use of maps allows flood information to be organised on a map so that it is specific to properties and somewhat ‘personalised’. Interactivity, aesthetically appealing messages, and the use of 3D are also suggested in the framework.

In order to test the framework, a prototype – guided by components in the framework – has been designed. Open source technologies (the Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML) and the HyperText Preprocessor (or PHP) scripting language) were used to develop the prototype. The prototype has been designed as a template, meaning that it can be applied to various flood prone areas. For the purpose of testing, the prototype was customised to a study area – Myrtleford in northeast Victoria. Test participants consisted of 28 people who varied in age and gender. The testing process was split into eleven phases that focused on how usable and useful certain aspects of the prototype, and the overall concept were. Comparisons between current communication modes (radio and fax) and the prototype were also made. The results obtained from this research show that the majority of test participants would use a system such as the prototype to obtain flood warnings. The innovation of this research is in the use of Web-delivered graphics to present flood warning information that is property specific and includes property specific safety suggestions.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences
Keyword(s) geographic visualisation
geographic visualisation tools
online visualisation tools
emergency management
risk communication
communicating to the public
flood warning
open source technology
open source gis
natural hazards
interactive maps
warning message
action statements
communication modes
generating vrml
automatic mapping
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Created: Fri, 26 Nov 2010, 11:06:35 EST
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