GIS and Natural and Human-Induced Disasters

GIS and remote sensing are critical tools for analyzing, preparing for, mitigating, and responding to natural and human-induced disasters. Geospatial technologies are used to estimate the risk of occurrence of a disaster based on physical and/or social (in the case of war for example) disasters. It may also be one tool in exploring the vulnerability of communities and groups within communities (e.g., farmers in a drought, elderly and people without cars in a hurricane) to hazards and disasters. Finally mapping can be an important logistical tool for siting or finding emergency response resources.

Examples of how GIS is used for understanding risk and vulnerability

NOAA – Coastal Risk Atlas - An excellent example research and visualization tools to assess hazards and vulnerability using GIS.  There are several links here of interest. For data downloads, see NOAA’s Spatial Trends in coastal Socioeconomics - which provides access to several national demographic and economic datasets recompiled in a variety of geographic units that managers must work with on a daily basis.

Southern California Weather and Hazards Data Viewer - The Southern California Weather and Hazards Data Viewer gives users access to weather forecasts and GIS hazards planning data in an Internet mapping tool for the purpose of monitoring coastal storms and their associated hazards

NOAA Storm Mapping Tutorial (requires you to log-in but the tutorial and data sets are free) -  This tutorial guides users through the process of downloading, converting, and displaying NOAA weather data in a geographic information system (GIS). Example data include rainfall forecasts, flash flood warnings, wind speed forecasts, and cumulative rainfall estimates.

US FEMA GIS Home (Federal Emergency Management Agency) – a web site that details how FEMA employs GIS for disaster response

New York City, Office of Emergency Management, GIS Section -  good explanation about municipal use of GIS for disaster preparation and response, with interesting links.

US Section – Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System - not GIS specfic but demonstrates critical role of spatial information in assessing both the risk of tsunamis and the vulnerability of coastal communities (for the latter see the Coastal Communities Resilience Guide)

Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management - publication from the National Academies Press detailing how to set up a geospatial database for disaster preparation and response. Registration required but the PDF can be downloaded after registration for free.

Because poverty and nutrition are key variables in understanding vulnerability, see the Tufts GIS section on Food and GIS for food, nutrition and poverty-related examples of vulnerability mapping and assessment.

See also Climate Change – Risk and Vulnerability Mapping for climate-change specific examples

Examples of Peer-Reviewed Literature

The journal Disasters (available online through Tufts Library) has numerous articles in which GIS is used to analyze, prepare for or respond to natural and human-induced disasters.

Clark, George E. et al. Assessing the Vulnerability of Coastal Communities to Extreme Storms: the Case of Revere, MA, USA.  Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 3: 59–82, 1998

Lein, J., & Stump, N. (2009, January). Assessing wildfire potential within the wildland-urban interface: A southeastern Ohio example. Applied Geography, 29(1), 21-34. Retrieved August 31, 2009, doi:10.1016/j.apgeog.2008.06.002

Collins, T., Grineski, S., & de Lourdes Romo Aguilar, M. (2009, July). Vulnerability to environmental hazards in the Ciudad Juárez (Mexico)-El Paso (USA) metropolis: A model for spatial risk assessment in transnational context. Applied Geography, 29(3), 448-461. Retrieved August 31, 2009, doi:10.1016/j.apgeog.2008.10.005

Tanaka, T., Abramson, D., & Yamazaki, Y. (2009, October). Using GIS in community design charrettes: Lessons from a Japan-U.S. collaboration in earthquake recovery and mitigation planning for Kobe. Habitat International, 33(4), 310-318. Retrieved August 31, 2009, doi:10.1016/j.habitatint.2008.08.006