The fight to warn areas of the UK about flooding has stepped up a gear by the introduction of a new Facebook application from the Environment Agency.

Powered by the Bing Maps platform and developed by Microsoft partner Shoothill, FloodAlerts is built on official flood warning data. This allows the Bing map to show areas where flooding threatens to leave homes and businesses underwater.

Shoothill’s Managing Director, Rod Plummer, explained: “FloodAlerts is the world’s first graphical representation of flood warning data on Facebook which provides localised updates every 15 minutes, keeping users informed about the potential flood risks in their area on a Microsoft Bing Map.

A good example is this Bing Map showing the impact of April’s wet weather sweeping across England.

Because the wettest April on record has left the ground saturated, any further rainfall flowing straight into rivers in the near future could prove a potential risk.

David Rooke, Director of Flood and Coastal Risk Management at the Environment Agency said: “Being prepared is vital to help reduce the risk of flooding. With over five million people living or working in areas at risk from flooding across England and Wales, we are urging communities to use the new application, alongside the Environment Agency's existing Floodline telephone service and website updates, to keep one step ahead of future floods.”

Innovation awards

As a mark of how useful the new FloodAlerts application is, developers Shoothill have been shortlisted for a high profile national innovation award. High praise indeed, whether they win or not.

The Guardian and Virgin Media Business’s Innovation Nation awards reward the most innovative use of technology in the UK private and public sectors.

Rod Plummer, said: “We have already had a fantastic response from everyone who has seen FloodAlerts and being shortlisted for a high profile award such as this is something we’re very proud of. It’s recognition for all of the hard work our very talented team has put into what is a unique product.

“We hope to see it blaze a trail for the possibilities of taking large public data sets and putting them to practical uses that have the ability to improve everyone’s lives. Facebook is an excellent medium to put this technology in front of people in a way they already understand and has the power to reach half of the UK population who we know have accounts on the social network.”

To vote and to see the list of finalists, see the Innovation Nation web page. The winner will be announced at the end of May.

The future of flood warnings and alerts for UK citizens certainly looks bright. With ever more innovative ways of communicating this kind of important information, social media seems an excellent and exciting path on which further milestones will surely be passed.