GIS Tech News #1

10 Jan, 2005 By: Arnie Williams


GIS Aids Tsunami Relief Efforts
In this premier issue of GIS Tech Trends, we examine the unprecedented importance of mapping technology in guiding disaster response

Welcome to the premier edition of Cadalyst's GIS Tech News. CAD and geospatial technologies are increasingly overlapping as new technologies and new applications come on the scene.This addition to Cadalyst's lineup of e-mail newsletters aims to help you stay informed of the latest developments in this arena. We'll be covering trends and relevant happenings in the GIS and mapping industry, including major product releases, open standards, government initiatives and more.

This issue will focus on a current event that both shocked the world and brought it together in marshalling and coordinating one of the largest humanitarian relief efforts the world has seen. In few other cases is the relevance and importance of accurate mapping data as crucial as during natural disasters. The recent earthquake off the coast of Indonesia and the subsequent tsunami that wreaked devastation on nine countries has tested remote sensing systems and GIS mapping data technologies like no previous event in history.

GIS Bolsters Relief Efforts
We spoke recently with David Gadsden, international relations and federal account manager at ESRI, regarding the worldwide relief efforts. He shared his thoughts and provided several interesting Web sites that should help you gain an added appreciation of how GIS technology will bolster on-going relief efforts.

"One of the first issues is determining how to get to many of these places," says Gadsden. "The tsunami has had a tremendous impact on the transportation infrastructure in these countries. It will be necessary to quickly determine which areas are accessible, which aren't, and alternate ways of getting to those places. A high priority will be to determine how water quality has been affected and where existing water lines that are still usable are located. Field reports and feedback will help relief organizations code their maps so that the right kind of relief efforts can be moved to the right places."

Unprecedented Need for Mapping Data
GIS technology is being used by the United Nations, USAID and other organizations to create c- codes and place names that are packed with the kind of data needed to achieve the best possible response. The scale of the efforts and the number of organizations that will need access to mapping data that is current and accurately coded is unprecedented.

Organizations such as EROS (USGS National Center for Earth Resources Observation and Sciences) that regularly collect satellite and GIS data were quick to see the need to make such data available. EROS provided pre- and post-tsunami satellite images and infrastructure data to help in planning disaster response.

The meeting of world leaders this past week in Jakarta, Indonesia, has brought attention to the need for an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system similar to that in the Pacific Disaster Center, which employs ESRI technology for much of its mapping and GIS data. We will watch and report on developments of this system as governments pool their resources to ensure that such a warning center is established.

Links to Tsunami Relief Effort Maps and Activities
GIS data is the backbone for digital maps that support ongoing relief efforts in the Indian Ocean region. For a look at some of those maps, as well as other information about recovery, use the following links.



UN World Food Programme:

Pacific Disaster Center:

Asia-Pacific Area Network: