Google Maps Save Lives Down Under

Dennis Faas's picture

Is there anything Google can't do? Google mapping technology, the subject of intense international criticism last week with the introduction of the Latitude location-based social application, steps in to save the day by mapping raging Australian bushfires.

This weekend, as the largest bushfires Australia has ever seen ravaged the landscape, engineers at Google Australia lent a helping hand by creating a Google Map that tracks the progress of the fires and provides essential information to those at risk.

The map allows Australian citizens to keep track of clear, threatened, and danger zones via color-coded points, and also helps authorities to keep unnecessary traffic out of the afflicted areas. By informing the public about safe travel routes and impending threats, the map permits a more rapid response from emergency service teams who might otherwise have become bogged down in throngs of panic-stricken, fleeing civilians. (Source:

The map also enables users to check on updates from the State of Victoria's County Fire Authority, and to access relief information from Red Cross Australia. (Source:

The fires have already claimed over 108 lives to date, and authorities are sure the number will grow as they continue to search new areas afflicted by the destruction. (Source:

What Else Can Google Tell Us About the Fires?

Google mapping technology offers another insight into the Australian tragedy with their application Google Earth. The Earth application updates its images via satellite every few hours at the most and shows satellite photographic imagery of selected areas. For those who have downloaded the application, it can reveal a first-hand glimpse of the devastation wreaked by the fires -- what Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd described as "hell in all its fury." (Source:

The Google fire map is just one way that technology can benefit mankind on a larger and more profound scale. Despite criticism about privacy violation and the potential for a watchful "big brother" to emerge from Google's massive presence in the online community, there is certainly no arguing that there are benefits to their all-knowing location technology, too.

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