- freely available
Sensors 2008, 8(5), 3037-3055; doi:10.3390/s8053037
- The first tier is the formal network of national and international disaster awareness and humanitarian aid programs of the disaster response organizations and governmental agencies. Their task is ongoing in terms of raising public awareness about disasters and raising monies to support their initiatives. They function on a continuous basis and facilitate communication, networking, and assistance in response to specific disasters.
- The second tier involves the immediate disaster response when a disaster occurs. It is multidimensional and facilitated by a wide array of participants: the media, the general public, concerned and interested parties (aid groups, family, government). This tier is largely transitory, locally or community based, built on a particular event that occurs in a specific geographic area and includes online “first responders of the wired world” . This tier is composed of the formal networks such as online news reporting, emergency information services, and mechanisms for online donations. Increasingly, informal social networks of communication have developed that provide first hand accounts of the disaster, posting of pictures and videos, blogs, and chatrooms that assist in locating resources that often link to the formal emergency response network .
- This tier is evolving as an ongoing presence that can provide information throughout and after the disaster event, monitor relief efforts, and model response scenarios. A key characteristic of this third tier is the enhanced use of geospatial technologies and the interaction between formal and informal socio-technological networks on the Internet. Participatory responses via the Internet during the disaster reveal the contributions from intensive contacts between organizationally distinct groups that create networks facilitating the use of Internet GIS for disaster management, monitoring, modeling, response, and relief.
Cyberspace communities, Disasters, and Participation
- Online media facilitate communication among families, friends and others, both inside and outside the country in which the disaster occurs, during a disaster.
- The messages and images carried about a disaster convey a sense of urgency to the world.
- The Internet enhances the ability for interactive communication of relevant information quickly and efficiently, provided people have the means to access the technology.
- Different forms of media interact to fuel news stories and information dissemination. The Internet, online media and blogs work in concert, remixing and reamplifying information.
- Web sites, wikis, and blogs can offer immediate assistance and assurance to a community, such as information on relief efforts, locations of impacted areas, potential dangers, shelter locations, donations, and ways to assist.
- The technological capabilities of the Internet make it an ideal tool for reporting accurate (and inaccurate) information, very quickly, and distributing it to the largest audience possible.
- Different types of information can be made rapidly available that depict the geographic extent of the event and satellite images provide a bird's eye view of the location.
- People living around the world have the opportunity to learn about the human tragedy that results from a disaster (provided they have Internet access) and this fosters a sense of global community .
Internet GIS and Disasters
- Networks:New, informal, and often unofficial socio-technological networks form – the ODRC. This socio-technological network represents the recursive connectivity between people and technology, between centralized groups and individual users, and between private and public sectors . These networks combine social groups through technological capabilities linking groups of informal Internet bloggers and networks of private companies, governmental agencies, and NGOs. Additionally, ad hoc technical networks have developed that allow for the intersection between wireless and wired infrastructures, mobile technology, and early re-establishment of Internet and computing facilities after a disaster .
- Data:GIS analysis converts raw data (eg., satellite image) into usable and relevant information. Specific, accurate, and targeted information on local conditions have the potential to be provided to workers and victims in a timely fashion. Satellite imagery is made available and processed via licensure arrangements and networks to provide information. Information may include evacuation routes, shelters, or locations of evacuees. Satellite imagery can depict the geographic extent of the damage and extent of damages done to the built environment, depending on availability, cloud cover, and resolution coupled with GIS overlays of roads, buildings, and infrastructure.
- Delivery:Data development of products is accomplished via innovative licensing structures with software vendors and data providers as well as GIS users. Downloadable data is available from data providers and widely distributed to aid workers, emergency responders and decision makers. During emergencies, software vendors have worked closely with emergency responders to develop necessary data for the emergency event. Due to the hierarchical response of disaster response and the traditional channels for information use and dissemination, not all of this information is necessarily made available to the general public. The ODRC has created mashups, webpages, wikis and blogs to link people to information sources and provide information in the form of maps when traditional avenues have failed [7, 31].
- Product:Numerous products have been developed from Internet GIS: multifunctional databases, open source GIS applications, specific software applications, services running on the Internet, information, and maps. Integrated and relational databases are the backbone of Internet GIS. Internet GIS for disasters provides technology-based enhancements to further develop multifunctional databases . The development of multifunctional databases allow for a variety of applications such as revenue collection, natural resource protection, land-use planning, and infrastructure planning as well as disaster planning . Open source code is critical to the ODRC for the development of online GIS products for disasters because the user to can change, use improve, and redistribute the software. In times of emergency and disaster, this ability is particularly important for innovative solutions and applications. Open source software can be free, and can be easily customized to meet a variety of end-user requirements. Additionally, the Open Geospatial Consortium, made up of companies, government agencies and universities, support interoperability across platforms, software, and data types to enhance functionality. Different products have been produced by both formal and informal groups with different audiences in mind. Visual outputs in the form of maps provide shelter locations and emergency evacuation routes at the local scale for disaster victims. Satellite images of coastlines before and after the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina provided important regional and temporal perspectives for scientists studying the physical nature of the disasters.
- Interactivity:Interactive capabilities allow for querying of and adding to databases. Some webpages have created interactive capabilities, such as the ability to download or add data. Exactly how Internet GIS is being used as an interactive medium is critical to understanding future use for disaster management .
- Connectivity:Embedded in this discussion is the assumption that people have access to the Internet. Connectivity is a crucial aspect of Internet GIS, specifically and of Internet access generally . Other types of connectivity are also important: the extent of support for sharing, exchange and access of data, information and products as well as creating greater connectivity and interaction between the various tiers of the ODRC.
Global and Regional ODRCs
People as Sensors: Cyber-community-based Approaches to Participation and Information Dissemination
Opportunities for Development of ODRC: The Third Tier
- Google Earth and Google Map:Google Earth and Google Map provide the most promising arena for Internet GIS by the ODRC. Google Earth ( http://earth.google.com/index.html) provides access to on line satellite imagery. The program must be downloaded to view the imagery – but most imagery is available in Google Map. This imagery has been used to develop products of damage assessment for Hurricane Katrina and was used to share tsunami images.Google Map ( http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&time=&date=&ttype=&ie=UTF8&om=1&msa=0&msid=114250687465160386813.00043d08ac31fe3357571&ll=32.990236,-116.732483&spn=1.105782,1.757813&z=9&mid=1193110631) has been used to develop maps of shelter locations and fire updates during the 2007 wildfires in California. Maps can be overlaid with satellite images of the same location.
- GISCorps: http://www.giscorps.org/Operating under the auspices of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA), GISCorps coordinates short term, volunteer GIS services to underprivileged communities worldwide. They provide GIS services that include: needs assessment and strategic planning, technical workshops, database modeling, disaster management, and remote sensing processing and interpretation. GIS allows relief agency staff to obtain critical information about how humanitarian support efforts are progressing to ensure appropriate response agencies are acting in a coordinated and efficient manner. Once in the field, the coordination can continue as new data can be added and disseminated via wireless applications and Internet/Intranet connectivity.
- Mercy Corps: http://www.mercycorps.org/Mercy Corps has created the Geospatial Relief & Development Team. A volunteer base of more than 50 GIS and remote sensing professionals in the Pacific Northwest has mobilized to apply geospatial technologies to expedite the flow of aid and accelerate recovery. They seek to establish a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) geospatial coordination team to reduce redundant efforts in emergency mapping, increase efficiency, detect change, transfer knowledge and provide a geospatial data repository for all NGOs in collaboration with the United Nations Geospatial Initiative throughout all phases of recovery.
- MapAction ( http://www.mapaction.org/)Based in the UK, MapAction is an NGO dedicated to providing time-sensitive information during a disaster. They integrate geospatial technologies (GIS, GPS, and RS) to create maps developed by a cadre of volunteers. In addition, they provide training programs in developing countries.
- Hurricane Information Maps: www.scipionus.comUsing Google's free API (application programming interface), this site presents information using Google maps with other data creating a “mash up” or a mash up of programs . These maps were designed for people affected by Hurricanes Katrina or Rita who were trying to find information about the status of specific locations affected by the storm and its aftermath. This site explicitly asks for updated information and provides instructions for how to add new locations and their attribute information.
Problems and Caveats
- Establishing standards, protocols for practice and for data collection for disaster management. The Electronic Records Management E-Gov Initiative, the Federal Geographic Data Committee, and International Organization for Standards have contributed much to further seamless digital exchange and compatability. Such efforts need to be extended to protocols for disaster management.
- Building multifunctional databases. Multifunctional databases require bridging information gaps. For example, cadastral databases are designed for land registration and taxation purposes that are not easily adapted to natural hazard loss estimations .
- Building and maintaining early warning systems while ensuring the necessary institutional support and recognizing that disaster warning is a core business of government. The 2004 tsunami revealed the need to develop not only the use of information communication technologies, but also to ensure the development of institutions that can support them .
- Understanding and identifying the role of emergency management agencies and humanitarian aid workers with regard to geospatial technologies and disaster and information dissemination for local communties. Increasing skills in information systems for emergency managers and humanitarian aid workers to better understand the role of data collection and information for emergency management .
- Identifying the role of and relationship with local, community-based organizations and efforts to integrate community-based solutions for disaster management. Emergency management is a community activity; most first responders are local. Developing training for community-based emergency data collection would have immediate benefits during a disaster for localities [21, 45, 46]. Developing drills for emergency response that include GIS applications and rapid response assessments and analysis.
- Recognizing the role of innovative and serendipitous activity to fill gaps that government agencies can not, do not, or will not. Several grassroots, open source development projects resulted from Hurricane Katrina: damage assessments reporting capability, missing persons databases, and sharing of reporting on calls for help. The formation of GIS Corps is the result of understanding the need for technical expertise in disaster areas. Taking best advantage of open source solutions for disaster management technology and technological gift-giving is an emerging area for disaster management .
- Further development and resources for Mobile GIS activity. Integration of GIS and GPS that will further the establishment of real time data collection and understanding the challenges it presents for first responders as well as the ODRC .
- Identifying and understanding the role of “unmapped” places for disaster management. Building on projects such as the UN Living with Risk  and the World Bank's Disaster Hot Spots , urban areas in developing countries have been identified as particularly prone to disasters due to land use practices and higher densities of population. Periurban areas surrounding Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Kuala Lumpar, Manila are often unmapped with little or no information making disaster management particularly difficult .
- Assessing the viability of Internet GIS for disaster to provide help to those who need help. Remote construction of a disaster via GIS and remote sensing focuses on the disaster itself outside the context of the socio-political environment. Ensuring adequate field-based data and community-based information is crucial to understanding the disaster, the victims, and its aftermath .
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