Joint Board of GIS

Geoinformation for Disaster and Risk Management

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IIntroduction National governments, international organizations and research institutions worldwide have set to work to improve disaster management in all its phases: mitigation, preparedness, relief and response, and recovery and reconstruction. Many governments have put the formation of a hazard-resistant and disastercoping society on their political agenda as an important factor of sustainable economic development and better quality of civil life. In this respect, the awareness of new geospatial technologies and their successful utilization in disaster management is becoming crucial.

These technologies are emerging very fast. Meteorological and earth observation satellites, communication satellites and satellite-based navigation and positioning systems may help to improve prediction and monitoring of potential hazards, risk mitigation and disaster management, contributing in turn to reduce losses of life and property. Global navigation satellites and earth observation satellites have already demonstrated their flexibility in providing data for a broad range of applications: weather forecasting, vehicle tracking, disaster alerting, forest fire and flood monitoring, oil spill detection, desertification monitoring, and crop and forestry damage assessment. Monitoring and management of recent natural disasters have greatly benefited from satellite imagery, such as the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, floods (Austria, Romania, Switzerland, and Germany in 2005, hurricanes (USA in 2005), forest fires (Portugal, France, Greece, Australia in 2005, 2008), earthquakes (Pakistan in 2005, Indonesia in 2006, Haiti 2010), etc.

The use and exchange of geospatial information in disaster situations is facilitated, on national and international levels, by initiatives and programmes on harmonisation of geospatial data and building of spatial data infrastructures, such as GMES and INSPIRE in Europe, the United Nations Geographic Information Working Group (UNGIWG), Homeland Security and Digital Earth. Sensors and in situ data have been increasingly integrated for early warning and hazard monitoring. Systems maintaining geospatial information are becoming more elaborate and multi- functional than ever before. Many of these systems can meet requirements for early warning and real-time response, and provide suitable models for elaborated predictions, simulations and visualizations.

However, the knowledge about the full range of the application potential of geospatial technologies is the domain of specialists in the geosciences. Therefore, the Ad-Hoc Group on Risk and Disaster Management was formed in 2008, with Orhan Altan as chairman, within the Joint Board of Geospatial Information Societies. It is the goal of the Ad-Hoc Group to create and foster knowledge transfer between international geo-science bodies working on disaster and risk management with different technological backgrounds, and to ensure political support for the utilization and development of geo-technologies in this field.

In fulfilment of its mission the Ad-Hoc Group initiated this publication in order to highlight geospatial technology which has been successfully used in recent disasters. It is a major goal of the book to make disaster managers and political decision-makers aware of the potential and benefits of using geospatial information in every phase of disaster and risk management.

The project started in January 2009 with an open call for contributions describing best practices and experiences. To coordinate the preparation of the booklet the Ad-Hoc Group appointed a working committee as follows: Orhan Altan, Piero Boccardo, Sisi Zlatanova (all ISPRS) and Robert Backhaus (UNOOSA/UN-SPIDER) Committee meetings were held in Prague, Zurich, Milan, Istanbul, Delft, Turin and Haifa to discuss the submitted abstracts and papers and to give guidance to the contributors. Only technology in action was considered. The papers had to be written for a wide-spread audience, with a minimum of technical detail. The booklet should demonstrate that geoinformation and satellite technology is used to manage disasters in all parts of the world and helped in various responce and recovery operations.

With regard to these goals 16 contributions were selected. The geographical distribution is shown in the figure below. Disasters in China, Germany, Greece, Haiti, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, the Philippines, Sudan, and the USA are analyzed in detail. Some of the most devastating natural disasters such as the South Asia tsunami and the Haiti Earthquake, as well as humanitarian crisis situations such as the Sudan refugee camps reveal the international efforts in providing maps and satellite imagery.

The papers can be subdivided into four thematic groups. The first group presents technologies, systems, and approaches that are intended for global early warning, monitoring and support. A second group of papers addresses the integration of satellite and airborne products for immediate response and damage detection in large impact disasters in Haiti, Mexico and Sudan. The third group demonstrates fusion of sensors networks measurements, imagery and GIS data for monitoring and simulation of floods, landslides, tunnels and earthquakes. The last group illustrates the benefit of integration of imagery and GIS data in post-disaster situations and for risk management.

The booklet starts with a chapter presenting the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS). It is one of the first and most used portals which provide alerts and impact estimations after major natural and environmental disasters. The partnership with scientific and hazard-monitoring institutions allows collection and communication of near real-time hazard information, which can be further combined in a GIS with demographic and socio-economic information. The importance of GDACS is growing, and the number of its users increasing. The second chapter is dedicated to the global monitoring and alert service on floods provided by the non-profit association ITHACA (Information Technology, Humanitarian Assistance, Cooperation and Action). After a short introduction outlining the major phases of disaster management, the authors discuss the data needs for the identification of water bodies and floods. Several approaches based on medium and low resolution satellite imagery and radar data are briefly explained and illustrated for several use cases in Bangladesh. The approaches aim at providing rapid mapping in the first hours of a flood. The system developed within ITHACA is operational worldwide. In chapter 3, Oertel et al. focus on wildfire monitoring by infrared sensors on a satellite constellation. The authors discuss and evaluate currently available sensors and data products, highlighting the characteristics of a relatively new (launched in 2001) satellite equipped with Infra red sensors for quantitative analysis of high-temperature events such as wildfires and volcanoes. They advocate further development of this system towards a dedicated Fire Monitoring Constellation, which would ensure a daily observing cycle with a spatial resolution of 250m.

Chapter 4 enlarges the thematic scope through the question on what additional information (spatial and non-spatial) is needed for successful crisis response in general, besides disaster-specific data. The author, Shirish Ravan, groups the additional information into the categories baseline data, utility and infrastructure data, and thematic data on terrain and natural resources. The informational value of these data is briefly outlined. Since these data sets are maintained by different institutions, the author emphasizes the development of Spatial Data Infrastructures and Web-based mapping services for local governments as key elements for successful management of crisis situations. Chapter 5 provides an extended study on the use of a specific type of airborne products (orthophotos) in the post-Tsunami reconstruction phase in Aceh, Indonesia. In contrast to the other chapters this one investigates the demand for such data by different organisations. Well-illustrated with several diagrams, the study clearly reveals that the use of spatial data was critical to the successful completion of the aftermath phase.

Chapter 6, 7, 8 and 9 demonstrate satellite-based technologies applied in cases of large impact disasters such as earthquake (Haiti, China) and dust storms (New Mexico), and for monitoring of refugee camps (Sudan). In the case of Haiti, appropriate maps showing most affected areas and road accessibility were provided in the first few days after the earthquake, in support of the provision of humanitarian help by the World Food Program. Although optical imagery was widely used, it was not sufficient for obtaining a complete picture of the devastation. Web-based systems were set up on the spot using open source tools. Mobile systems equipped with webcams and GPS also appeared to be very successful.

However many problems related to timely delivery of data, availability of data and costs have been reported. The study confirms the importance of Spatial Data Infrastructure, as discussed in Chapter 4.

The authors, Ajmar et al., argue that many developing countries need access to participatory (community) maps such as Open Street Maps or Google Map Maker, to enable citizens and experts to quickly exchange information. In chapter 7, Suju Li et al. present an extensive overview on the large number of satellite images (n=1257) provided in support of the earthquake response and relief activities in China in 2008. The authors note, however, that requests for earth observation data should be carefully planned to ensure complete coverage of the affected areas at different time periods. In chapter 8, Morain and Budge discuss a satellite-based system for dust monitoring, concluding that such systems might be of great importance for the mitigation of health risks. A very interesting application of satellite products in humanitarian actions is presented by Kranz et al. in chapter 9. The authors present an approach for monitoring the extent and growth of displaced persons camps using very high resolution satellite images (1m). The mapping products were delivered two days after receiving the satellite data. The feedback from the user organizations was very positive.

Chapters 10, 11, 12 and 13 present examples of technologies fusion (ground sensors, satellite products and GIS) for several medium scale disasters. Kerle and Neussner present a local flood early warning system, which consists of rain and river level gauges and a command and control system for processing the data. The system can alert citizens at every administrative level and did not miss a single flooding event, being activated 13 times since 2007. Glabsch et al. report on tests of a low-cost land slide monitoring system based on a network of point stations with permanent position control. The system is completely modular and allows long-term monitoring as it is powered by solar energy. Data handling and processing is managed by different software packages and all the measurements are archived in a database management system. Klaus Chmelina presents the Kronos system, which is dedicated to tunnel structure monitoring. The Kronos software is being successfully applied for the metro in Budapest and Thessaloniki. Spinetti et al. present their system for monitoring Mount Etna, Italy. The system monitors surface deformation, surface temperature and gas and particles emissions into the atmosphere. These parameters (obtained from satellite imagery and radar) are used by decision-makers for better understanding the situation after an eruption.

Chapters 14, 15 and 16 demonstrate the use of geo-information in a more societal context, addressing auditing disaster-related aid, and estimation of population growth in megacities. Bijker et al. (chapter 14) describe their approach based on land cover change detection between the start and at the end of the audit period. The maps were derived from satellite images. The study clearly shows that the method is cost-effective and also served to demonstrate to the local authorities the importance of geography in policy implementation for disaster areas. Similar conclusions are also drawn in the last chapter by Nolte et al., related to the role of remote sensing and GIS for the sustainable development of megacities. The authors argue that information on population density and its spatial distribution is one of the most crucial requirements for resilient disaster management. These parameters can successfully be monitored with remote sensing technology and processed with GIS packages. The last chapter 16 presents a number of emergency situations, in which GIS was successfully applied for response or recovery. The authors Cygan et al convincingly illustrate that GIS aids in establishing complete situational awareness by linking people, processes and information.

The editors believe that this booklet is a helpful demonstration of how geoinformation technology can be efficiently integrated into disaster management, encompassing data collection (remote sensing, sensor networks, mobile systems), data processing, and production of maps, which are further integrated, analyzed and visualized in GIS/Web-GIS. Many more advanced exciting technologies (3D visualization and simulation) are in the process of development, prototyping and testing and will be available in the coming years. The authors believe that this book will contribute to a better understanding and acceptance of these technologies. The book is complemented by the mission profiles of the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) and the JBGIS member societies.

The book is intended to target political and administrative decision-makers as well as administrative emergency practitioners, but also technical experts from different disciplines including computer science, information technology, engineering, and disaster management.

The editors would like to thank the members of the Joint Board of Geospatial Information Societies for approving the project, and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, the United Nations World Food Programme, the foundation Compagnia di San Paolo and ITHACA for all the valuable support given to the realization of this book. Furthermore the editors want to express their sincere thanks to two persons, namely Prof. John Trinder and Dr. Gerhard Kemper. Prof. Trinder took care of the proofreading with unprecedented capacity. Dr. Kemper designed the layout of the booklet with his well-proven competence. Without their help this publication would not have been realized.

We wish to thank the ISPRS Council for their encouragement and support for all stages of the preparation of the booklet to its completion.


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