Friday, May 25, 2012


During the last years many countries have been faced with different threats, such as terrorist attacks and huge natural disasters. Government may not prevent these events from occurring but they have been using GIS to minimize causalities and control difficult scenarios.

After a 25-mile thunderstorm that stalled FT. Collins, Colorado, the Cities GIS department quickly reacted by mapping the damages caused by this undesirable event. These maps where used both by the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to facilitate their jobs. The Red Cross used the maps to allocate homeless people and building with standing water to avoid a health crisis. The FEMA used these maps to send their first relief teams to site ASAP. 

It is very important for emergency management personal to have fast, accurate and clear information when there has been a natural disaster; man made emergencies, epidemics, riots, or even terrorists attacks. Before introducing GIS, agencies relied on their manager’s intuition and experience. There was no time to analysis information. The GIS framework that is now used allows agencies and governments to coordinate and acquire essential information to minimize casualties and undesired events. GIS maps complex information making it instantly comprehensive, thing that cannot be done with text. Wireless technologies and GIS applications have also helped response teams be more efficient in their response.

Governments cannot control devastating situations but they can leverage on GIS to prevent disasters from occurring.  “An emergency that that overwhelms the ability of local resources to deal with it is termed a disaster."[1]

Not only does GIS allow an efficient response but can also prevent certain undesired events to occur. Take for example, “mapping and analyzing the relations of faults to existing infrastructure highlights areas vulnerable to earthquakes. These areas become the focus of mitigation efforts.”[1] GIS can also reduce secondary damages in natural disasters such as fires, gas leaks and water contamination that can create health issues.

Larimer County (29 different districts, cities, towns and communities), located in the north of Colorado, well known for its entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park receives over 3 million visitors per year. This had led the county to have the Larimer County GIS center (LCGIS), which stores a variety of important spatial enabled data including important locations such as shelters, schools, fire department, police department, public facilities and others.

Due to the fact of the difficulties they used to have to report to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the LCGIS decided to create a special Emergency Response web application (Larimer Interactive Geographic Emergency Responder, {LIGER}) which would allow them to have “instant collaboration, visualize population and infrastructure vulnerabilities and visualize and manage the allocation of resources with their associated hazards.” After having come up with this new application emergency managers have quickly benefited by being able to update and manage resources as needed in any type of hazardous situation. This allows them to give fast and reliable information to the FEMA.

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