Emergency situations may not be controlled but understanding the geography of the location will give responders an insight to prepare for the worst.

Mapping solutions provide an answer during emergency mitigation.

If a disaster suddenly impacts your location, how ready are you? The best time to know where the vulnerabilities of locations are is before an emergency or a natural disaster strikes. Just a couple of weeks ago, headlines were plagued with the devastating tropical storm Isaac that impacted gulf coast states. Local government units from Louisiana to Florida had their hands tied in information dissemination to give situational awareness to people in their areas. And maps are what  make it possible for them to acknowledge the gravity of the natural disaster and to identify the associated risks.

Compared to the previous decade, we have seen tremendous reduction of the devastating impact from disasters.  One thing accountable for this is that people are already more educated when it comes to geographical information system. This technology coupled with using maps is a perfect combination to provide accurate solutions for emergency problems.

Mapping for Emergency Mitigation

Whatever emergency situations is there – tropical storms, fire, violent conflict, earthquake and tsunami – may not be controlled, but people can be protected and shielded when the geographical locations are understood. Data visualization allows people to see the big picture and avoid myopic perspectives. Additionally, it helps us understand socio-economic differences, political boundaries and population trends.

GIS mapping system makes it possible to identify locations at risk. By map visualization, disaster responders are able to see things clearly. Each layer may give them new insights on identifying hazards, severity and proximity of a disaster. When individual layers are understood, emergency responders can collaborate with the data, drawing a connection between each layer. They set up plans to prioritize them during emergency mitigation.

Strategic planning comes next. As they see things clearly, step by step planning can now be easily plotted. Locations that have the greatest degree of impact  are prioritized. Emergency mitigation planning may include providing:

o   Situational awareness

o   Public warnings

o   Public notifications

o   General information about what kind of disaster or emergency

o   Damage assessments

o   Incident status

o   Evacuation from affected communities

o   Temporary shelters and basic necessities

Indeed powerful mapping applications are instrumental to control the risks brought by any sort of crisis. When risk mitigation is handled appropriately, more lives, properties and resources can be saved.

This series of articles will be concluded by tackling the last but equally important core competency of using mapping applications in emergency and disaster management – for emergency response and recovery. How do maps become instrumental in both field and recovery operations? The 4th and last part of the article series will give you new insights.