Geographic Information System (GIS) technology is transforming disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. With intelligent preparation and data analysis, responders can implement targeted, real-time disaster plans to help save lives.

1: Prepare your technology
Despite having all the technology and all the software needed for effective disaster response, 95 per cent of respondents aren’t properly prepared, according to Esri’s Director for National Government, Chris McIntosh.

If you don’t prepare, the technology isn’t going to help you; it’s unfortunate how often that occurs.

The time between disasters is when responders need to be building information products and developing web maps ready to act when disaster strikes.

2: Build predictive models
When preparing for disasters, predictive insights lead to better outcomes. Insights from predictive models such as volcanic seismic activity can predict when volcanoes are going to erupt, or show the potential threat from water inundation in flood-prone areas.

3: Develop solution templates
Planning and preparation can be easily managed with downloadable solution templates. Dynamic plans can be created in a geospatial format instead of sitting in binders on a shelf; a threat identification template can identify risks and outline actions. “If you’re not doing something every day in disaster response, you’re falling behind,” says Chris McIntosh.

Communities that have worked to manage and reduce their risk are the ones who have disasters that are manageable and less costly than those who don’t.

4: Plan scalable usability
Disaster response organisations usually employ a small permanent workforce, which increases rapidly when disaster strikes. Connecting volunteers and contractors to technology platforms early means the entire workforce will be ready for real-time action and collaboration in response to an event.

5: Build focused apps
Instead of large, complex macro-level applications that cover multiple tasks, a smarter approach is to create simple applications focused on specific scenarios. These ‘mission-focused’ apps give users access through familiar platforms on devices such as smartphones and tablets. Operations centre staff can be up and running with a few clicks and minimal training.

6: Apply spatial analytics
Making sense of vast datasets is key to effective disaster mitigation. Spatial analytics – the downstream management incorporating all data – takes the entire impact of a disaster into account. This helps target prevention and direct response, rather than taking a broad stroke, generalised approach.

Responders often don’t identify the cascading failures of a disaster.

7: Create scenarios
Visualising outcomes helps develop successful plans and procedures, with scenario models showing the reach and scope of disasters. One of the best examples of this is in the United States – the first time storm-surge areas for hurricanes approaching the mainland have been modelled. Scenario models show the infrastructures and population that are going to be affected by water on land.

The power of advanced GIS and spatial analytics is behind the world’s most intelligent disaster mitigation plans.

By accurately helping identify highest-risk areas, creating models that predict impact and equipping responders with easy-to-use apps, the future of disaster response and recovery will be more targeted and successful than ever.

This article is an extract from a conversation with Chris McIntosh, Director of National Government Industries at Esri. Chris applies his knowledge in geospatial technologies to National Government strategies and is an expert in using GIS technology in disaster mitigation and recovery.

To find out more about GIS in disaster mitigation, call a specialist on 1800 870 750 or send us an email.

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