Following bushfire activity in NSW: @nswbushfires vs @nswrfs

On Sunday I posted about a Twitter bot (@nswbushfires) I quickly hacked up to post current incident updates to Twitter.

People following the bushfires on Twitter may have noticed that the Rural Fire Service launched an official Twitter bot (@nswrfs) this morning containing information on major fire updates.

I had a brief chat with the Manager of Online Communications from the RFS this afternoon about the datasets available on their site, how data is generated within the RFS, and how that data can best be used.

Basically their bot aggregates major fire updates, which contain information on incidents that may directly affect people or property, and how people should respond. The announcements are a digital form of what gets syndicated to news outlets, and are crafted by the RFS communications team. Generally this information is up-to-the-minute.

On the other hand, my bot aggregates the list of current incidents, which is an extract of an internal RFS system used by people on the ground to track their handling of fires. The data in the current incidents list can potentially be several hours out of date, as it’s quite often entered into their internal system after the incident has been handled. That said, it provides a state-wide overview of RFS activity and can be useful for tracking non-critical bushfire activity in your area.

So for people wanting to follow bushfire activity in NSW, I would highly recommend following both bots.