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Evacuation orders are also a product of GIS simulations, traffic and transportation data, flood mapping models, and the like, with exit routes being selected months in advance.

Geospatial Information Technology for Emergency Response

In , days before Hurricane Matthew was set to make landfall in North Carolina, officials urged more than 1. And this mass exodus could be executed with an enviable level of efficiency only because it was a result of meticulous, information-driven planning. But, even with a high level of preparedness, determining the exact scale of devastation a natural disaster would wreak is never a certainty. Which is why post-disaster response models often start with a map, and depend heavily on accurate real-time data.

And when catastrophic Hurricane Harvey unleashed its fury on Texas in , the Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA shared up-to-date geospatial data with all state and local emergency response providers on a daily basis. In fact, the identification of distribution centers is also dependent on spatially-aware data — where are the victims clustered, where is the nearest supply warehouse, how is the accessibility to the affected area, etc.

GIS is also required for visualizing the most efficient pickup points and evacuation routes for survivors, supplemented by essential information like the capacity of a shelter or which shelters can accommodate the special needs of the elderly. When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in , response and recovery officials were faced by a surprising challenge: there were no street addresses available for any of the rural areas. Even the majority of the houses have been built without permits on government or private land.

And yet, within weeks, volunteers were able to analyze 1. The US Virgin Islands were also hit by Hurricane Maria, and that too only a few days after Hurricane Irma tore roofs off houses and shut down communication and power grids. Here also aerial imagery and GIS played a central role in identifying and analyzing damaged roofs, allowing FEMA to accordingly prioritize its relief and recovery efforts.


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Technical Papers. When Hurricane Irma hit, the city of Key West, Florida, had an extensive preparation strategy and a damage control plan for after the storm passed. City officials downloaded map-based data from previous disasters before the storm hit to prepare.

After the region lost power, the data helped keep relief efforts moving and helped officials strategize about how to help the disaster-strewn city recover. The program allowed them to drop a pin on a map and detail the damage in that area, including photos. This helped them send FEMA and construction teams to the hardest-hit locations.


Continuing to collect data allows the city to develop a live map of the buildings, streets and even vegetation, meaning they can record and report future damage faster and smoother. In the future, they plan to implement a crowdsourcing feature that allows residents who stay through a storm to report damage through a streamlined process. While states on the West Coast may not have to worry about hurricanes, they do deal with devastating mudslides caused by intense rainfall, snow or earthquakes.

Geospatial software can prove useful in these situations, as it has the functionality to:. With these insights, residents can more accurately assess whether they are in danger, and rescue workers can map out and prioritize assistance to areas with the greatest potential risk or greatest concentration of people. Wildfires are unpredictable, but GIS technology can provide tools to monitor, forecast and minimize their impact.

The conditions affecting a fire can be collected in real time via UAVs and drones, and compiled alongside predictive data like wind speed and direction.