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Leveraging Geospatial Data for Better Disaster Management Response

Hurricanes, earthquakes, industrial accidents, and others are capable of creating considerable chaos, be it from damaging the environment to the impact it has on communities and the kind of complications that it can cause in the rescue efforts. However, thanks to GIS, emergency management and disaster response is much better equipped now, in helping communities in both preparations as well as recovery. From the tracking and prediction of disasters to providing assistance in rescue, recovery, and relief efforts, GIS today, is mitigating risks, damages and helping in saving lives.

Catastrophic events have been seeing a rise in both impact as well as frequency, efficiency and speed at a higher premium. There is an extraordinary amount of information that local authorities, corporations as well as emergency management agencies have to look into and communicate both internally and externally which would involve population and staff locations, evacuation resources, supply chain disruptions, public health services, and others. Being able to process all the data and then relay it accurately to all the stakeholders is imperative for the prevention of significant loss of human life as well as damage to property, infrastructure and economic continuity.

Catastrophic events have been seeing a rise in both impact as well as frequency, efficiency and speed at a higher premium


One can take the example of cyclones that the coastal regions of India are so prone to with the advent of monsoons — by collecting actionable insights via GIS before and after a major cyclone, how a region recovers from the damage caused by wind, water and storm can be altered completely. Thus, disaster management response, the compilation of data for hazard mapping and rescue measures becomes a top priority as it ends up making a monumental difference.

For the various phases of emergency management i.e. preparedness, response, mitigation and recovery and others GIS can help in the improvement of our response to both natural disasters and man-made hazards.

Here are a few ways how GIS helps local authorities and emergency responders:

Granting Spatial Awareness:Providing contextualized information, GIS grants spatial awareness that helps in improving response times for local and state governments as well as organizations and parties said to be impacted. GIS can help in communicating the best locations and time leading to emergency evacuation centres as well as providing information regarding road closures or at-risk zones. Apart from this spatial awareness is also valuable for
preparedness and recovery efforts. By visually presenting areas that are lacking in emergency response resources compared to the kind of risks that the disaster poses, allows policymakers and government agencies to be able to prioritize areas that require most attention before or after a calamity.

Monitoring in Real-Time:Any sudden changes in weather impact emergency response drastically in terms of routes and supply chain. Be it floods, man-made hazards, earthquakes and others the safety of first responders, company personnel as well as members of the community is dependent upon real time monitoring of the conditions. GIS can integrate data from a variety of sources and analyse the risk areas, so that on the basis of these medicines, emergency management teams can be dispatched to the relevant areas while also being able to assess where more resources might be needed

Data Integration: When it comes to disaster management, response and recovery, data silos are a serious obstacle. When you talk about managing a calamity of a large scale and the amount of resources that most agencies possess and utilise, it is quite difficult for a single organisation to jump between data sources and compare live reports with others.

GIS can help in centralising and organising data that can be maintained across a wide range of agencies, organizations and when this is coupled with monitoring devices, GIS can project how data interacts with one another. Being able to put all the data together on a single map helps in creating a clearer picture and also affecting the level of long as well as short-term preparedness. From analysing relief efforts, to bridging corporate resources, emergency response and more data integrated by GIS can help in improving operations and also minimising damage.

Public Awareness: For relaying of information that is easily comprehensible by the public, GIS, can help in generating warning or emergency notifications. By being able to map the scale of damage, outreach efforts can also be improved upon and bring attention to better future relief efforts as well. By representing the resources nearby or even the lack of it, GIS,can help in conveying the critical nature of the situation much better than other methods of data collection and representation.

Even though GIS is not a new technology for emergency management, however widespread adoption is the need of the hour. With 2020 bringing in unprecedented global emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, governments are looking into investing in GIS in order to support emergency operations. With the help of spatial awareness and data application, monumental improvements canbe made in addressing future risk scenarios both in terms of the severity as well as the frequency of disasters. Hence, both public and private organisations, need to now look into greater investment as well as the adoption of GIS technologies so as to ensure that any disasters in the future be it natural or man-made are less calamitous.

Authored by Ashwanii Rawat and originally published here

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