Brendan Cunningham, MD at MapAlerter, the digital eye in the storm. To download the free app visit www.mapalerter.com
An extreme weather alert service, designed and developed by a former Kilkenny County Council official, generated 500,000 emergency alerts last week, potentially saving lives as Storm Ophelia swept across Ireland.
MapAlerter is the brainchild of digital mapping expertBrendan Cunningham. The UCD and Maynooth graduate from Leighlinbridge and his team at Burrell’s Hall Innovation Centre at St Kieran's College in Kilkenny have built and tested the system over several years, adding new features all the time.
It withstood its biggest challenge to date when the red alert came into force. Over 620 individual alerts were issued by council staff during the course of the storm, shared with the wider public who signed up for free to receive such alerts on the MapAlerter.com website.
MapAlerter is already linked to 11 local authorities nationwide, meaning that outdoor staff working in these areas were able to quickly send in alerts from the field during Ophelia which were then forwarded to affected people living in the local area.
The rapid response alert system also helped staff at various councils’ emergency management centres follow progress on each incident location on an interactive map and see in real time where the damage occurred.
MapAlerter automatically links up with Met Éireann to collect severe weather information, as well as data from other tried and trusted sources such as the Office of Public Works (OPW) river level sensors. It all means that emergency teams, the public, media and social media outlets are provided with up-to-date information.
The hi-tech system operates via texts, which is crucial, as the biggest technology issue often faced by outdoor staff is the absence of WiFi, 3G or 4G connections,
“Using texts allows updates to be delivered in a timely and efficient manner, no matter how severe the conditions and no matter how basic a phone staff in the field operate,” says Mr Cunnhingham.
“It doesn’t even require that operators use a smartphone. We put in a 19 hour day on Sunday preparing for Ophelia and similar time as she struck and left a trail of destruction in her path. Everything ran smoothly – without a single glitch.
"When the storm path changed on Sunday, we took a decision to move server providers to a new location, fearing our existing infrastructure might be struck and we’d be left in the dark. It was exceptionally busy but the system worked and passed its first major severe weather test with flying colours.
“It was hectic, with Cork County Council alone raising 220 impassable road alerts for trees and fallen items. It was refreshing to see later texts with ‘Open’ and road numbers follow through on the system within hours to indicate to road users that these obstructions had been cleared and motorists and other road users could venture out safely.”
MapAlerter was first deployed by Wexford County Council and is now the tried, trusted and chosen alert system for emergency events to be used by other local authorities, including Kilkenny.
For more or to sign up for free, visit www.mapalerter.com.