Exploring the adaptive capacity of emergency management using agent based modelling

Information technology
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This project aimed to explore the suitability of Agent Based Modelling and Simulation (ABMS) technology in assisting planners and policy makers to better understand complex situations with multiple interacting aspects. The technology supports exploration of the impact of different factors on potential outcomes of a scenario, thus building understanding to inform decision making. To concretise this exploration a specific simulation tool was developed to explore response capacity around flash flooding in an inner Melbourne suburb, with a focus on sandbag depots as an option to be considered.The three types of activities delivered by this project to achieve its objectives were the development of an agent-based simulation, data collection to inform the development of the simulation and communication and engagement activities to progress the work.

Climate change is an area full of uncertainties, and yet sectors such as Emergency Management and many others need to develop plans and policy responses regarding adaptation to these uncertain futures. Agent Based Modelling and Simulation is a technology which supports modelling of a complex situation from the bottom up, by modelling the behaviours of individual agents (often representing humans) in various scenarios. By running simulations with different configurations it is possible to explore and analyse a very broad range of potential options, providing a detailed understanding of potential risks and outcomes, given particular alternatives. This project explored the suitability of this technology for use in assessing and developing the capacity of the emergency response sector, as it adapts to climate change. A simulation system was developed to explore a particular issue regarding protection of property in a suburb prone to flash flooding. In particular the option of providing sandbag depots was explored. Simulations indicated that sandbag depots provided by CoPP or VicSES were at this time not a viable option. The simulation tool was deemed to be very useful for demonstrating this to community members as well as to decision makers. An interactive game was also developed to assist in raising awareness of community members about how to sandbag their property using on-site sandbags. The technology was deemed to be of great potential benefit to the sector and areas for further work inorder to realise this benefit were identified. In addition to developing awareness of useful technology, this project also demonstrated the critical importance of interdisciplinary team work, and close engagement with stakeholders and end users, if valuable technology uptake is to be realised.


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