GIS Important in Disaster Management

Globe and Mail had a story on February 1, 2007 on the work of MapAction, a British volunteer organization that uses satellite maps and geographic information system (GIS) software to assist in humanitarian relief efforts. Most recently, the group helped relief efforts during severe flooding in Kenya. MapAction volunteers assisted workers and the Kenyan government in identifying the worst-hit areas and moving resources quickly to where they were needed most.

More from the Globe and Mail:

More and more, relief groups and rescue organizations are turning to satellite-based mapping that can give them a bird’s-eye view of a disaster area. GIS software can provide such life-saving information as which way winds are blowing a forest fire, a way of identifying and contacting people who live in an affected area and where food and shelter are available.

During record flooding in Alberta in 2005, for example, Emergency Management Alberta relied on a GeoExplorer system from Telus Geomatics, a unit of Burnaby, B.C.-based Telus Corp., to manage relief efforts. Rick Brown, acting executive director of the provincial agency, says EMA superimposed more than 375 layers of data on maps of the province that showed current weather conditions, the latest information on homes evacuated as well as the location of roads, waterways, oil and gas wells, residences and other infrastructure.Before GIS, the agency relied on paper maps tacked up on walls and people in the field calling in information. Numbers written on maps would correspond to notes on separate situation boards, a process that proved to be slow and cumbersome.

You can view some of MapAction’s Kenyan flood maps here.

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