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Application Of GPS To Disaster Management Information Technology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Information Technology
Wordcount: 2876 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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GPS is particularly useful during disasters because it operates in any weather, anywhere and at all times. While it functions simply to give the location of the receiver, the level of precision of GPS makes it quite useful in disaster management.

GPS find its greatest utility during the response and recovery phases; however it can also be utilized during preparedness and mitigation phases.

An important application of GPS in EDM is tracking of emergency vehicles or supplies. In this application the GPS receiver attached to the vehicle and the location is overlaid onto a map.

Other applications include the monitoring the height of waves. GPS units are fixed to buoys and the height of the units are can be determined to within centimetres any significant change in wave height or velocity can trigger an alarm for a tsunami or sea surge. Volcanoes can also be monitored using GPS. By measuring the deformation of the ground, inferences about volcanic activity can be made.

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Remote Sensing and Flooding

Flooding is one of the most frequently occurring hazards. With flooding comes the risk of damage or disruption to normal living including communication, transportation, the environment and infrastructure. Given the magnitude of disruption that can take place, it may be difficult for disaster managers to gain access to remote areas or areas that have been cut off as a result of the disaster. Remote sensing as a technological tool would greatly assist this process as it would allow users of the technology the opportunity to view what is taking place in an affected area, without jeopardizing the safety of the user, since they will not actually be at the site.

It is always going to be difficult, if not impossible, for planners to identify all the areas likely to experience flooding in any location. The use of technology however, in determining flood potential could highlight features of the geography that could make the community susceptible to the hazard. Types of flooding such as flash flooding, which usually take place in a relatively short time, with little or no warning could prove potentially dangerous for disaster managers if they attempt to physically go into an area that has been experiencing continuous rainfall. While the task of providing assistance to victims is critical and time dependent, a physical presence in the affected area could increase the persons at risk.

Using remote technology however, would allow response workers to stay away from danger zones while at the same time gather pertinent information to facilitate timely response, rescue and relief efforts.

Floodplain mapping is a useful indication of flood possibilities in an area and remote sensing can aid the process of identifying flood plains. The technology would generate satellite imagery of the area in question, which would allow for proper planning and timely rescue efforts should the need arise. The detailed photography produced from remote sensing provides accurate information and can restrict efforts to the affected area. Other characteristics that could be identified about a geographic region using remote sensing include land-use classification, historical data, soil coverage, and soil moisture.

Remote sensing and Hurricanes

Hurricane forecasting over the last century has improved dramatically, with experts being able to estimate the likely number of storms for a given year, intensity and possible levels of destruction. Today, this process is made even easier with the use of remote sensing technology. Trackers are able, even while the storm is in progress, to go to the core of the system in search of information. This tool, at any stage of the hurricane threat is useful in mitigating against the deadly effects that could take place.

Remote sensing can allow planners to ascertain data about the features of watersheds to include drainage and density. Once obtained, this is useful information as it provides information on the capacity of the watershed to deal with the volume of water-flow that could result from rains associated with the storm.

High resolution technology, a feature of remote sensing, is useful in providing spatial data on hurricanes. Because the scales of geographic areas in remote sensing can be manipulated, users will be in a position to zoom in on specific areas for study. Storm surges and coastal flooding, which often accompany hurricanes can be better mapped using remote sensing and provide information on the level of flooding that has been experienced.

Remote sensing and Earthquakes

Development in any area with high seismic risk is always going to be problematic. Given the high volume of fault lines that extend across the breadth of geographic areas, it is inevitable that there are going to be human settlements in these areas. Considering also that there is no early warning system in place for earthquakes, emphasis must be placed on hazard mitigation to reduce the likely impact from earthquakes on lives or properties. Extensive use of remote sensing (and especially the use of satellite imaging) is critical to the planning process for earthquake preparedness. This technology will help in identifying the structural and non-structural earthquake hazards that are present and employ the most appropriate tool for minimizing these risks. LandSat imagery is one tool that is effective for this purpose given availability and cost.

After an earthquake has taken place, visibility with the naked eye, as well as access to worst affected areas may be restricted. When this happens, it becomes difficult for emergency personnel to gain access to survivors in a short period of time. Using remote sensing technology, however, would significantly improve the timeliness and quality of aid that can be provided. Activities, such as search and rescue, are best affected after major earthquakes using remote sensing. Since there will be considerable amount of debris from collapsed structures, it would be advantageous to employ the service of remote sensing for deep searching.

Just as Dr. Thomas Jordan pointed out, “The data from the Southern California Integrated GPS Network will allow us to anticipate future earthquakes with more accuracy, as well as to study in much greater detail the fundamental processes of crustal deformation that are the root causes of earthquakes.” (2006, gps.gov)

Remote Sensing and Volcanic Eruptions

On-the-spot seismic monitoring of volcanoes is the most effective way to monitor volcanic activity. However, it may not be practical or safe to be on-site at all times. In light of this, remote sensing is crucial to the monitoring process. Remote sensing technology can allow disaster managers to observe volcanic activities on a continuous basis without being physically on site especially at times when it would be dangerous.

Remote sensing and Landslides

Landslides usually occur with other hazards, such as flooding, hurricanes and earthquakes, but can also happen independently. Once major portions of land shift out of place, access to and general visibility of the affected area is usually severely restricted. Remotely sensed images under these conditions are useful tools in assisting planners. It presents a picture of what has taken place, and aids in the decision making process regarding the future of the affected area. Where assessment of an area is limited due to debris and mudflow from a landslide, remote sensing could penetrate dense areas to provide critical information.

As new technologies emerge, and with the increased incidents of natural and man-made disasters, it is necessary to employ as many of these technological advancements as possible to mitigate against the effects of disasters.

Introduction to Disaster Management, Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC),


A critical component of any successful rescue operation is time. Knowing the precise location of landmarks, streets, buildings, emergency service resources, and disaster relief sites reduces that time — and saves lives. This information is critical to disaster relief teams and public safety personnel in order to protect life and reduce property loss. The Global Positioning System (GPS) serves as a facilitating technology in addressing these needs.

GPS has played a vital role in relief efforts for global disasters such as the tsunami that struck in the Indian Ocean region in 2004, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that wreaked havoc in the Gulf of Mexico in 2005, and the Pakistan-India earthquake in 2005. Search and rescue teams used GPS, geographic information system (GIS), and remote sensing technology to create maps of the disaster areas for rescue and aid operations, as well as to assess damage.

Another important area of disaster relief is in the management of wildfires. To contain and manage forest fires, aircraft combine GPS with infrared scanners to identify fire boundaries and “hot spots.” Within minutes, fire maps are transmitted to a portable field computer at the firefighters’ camp. Armed with this information, firefighters have a greater chance of winning the battle against the blaze.

In earthquake prone areas such as the Pacific Rim, GPS is playing an increasingly prominent role in helping scientists to anticipate earthquakes. Using the precise position information provided by GPS, scientists can study how strain builds up slowly over time in an attempt to characterize, and in the future perhaps anticipate, earthquakes.

Meteorologists responsible for storm tracking and flood prediction also rely on GPS. They can assess water vapor content by analyzing transmissions of GPS data through the atmosphere.

GPS has become an integral part of modern emergency response systems — whether helping stranded motorists find assistance or guiding emergency vehicles.

As the international industry positioning standard for use by emergency and other specialty vehicle fleets, GPS has given managers a quantum leap forward in efficient operation of their emergency response teams. The ability to effectively identify and view the location of police, fire, rescue, and individual vehicles or boats, and how their location relates to an entire network of transportation systems in a geographic area, has resulted in a whole new way of doing business. Location information provided by GPS, coupled with automation, reduces delay in the dispatch of emergency services.

Incorporation of GPS in mobile phones places an emergency location capability in the hands of everyday users. Today’s widespread placement of GPS location systems in passenger cars provides another leap in developing a comprehensive safety net. Today, many ground and maritime vehicles are equipped with autonomous crash sensors and GPS. This information, when coupled with automatic communication systems, enables a call for help even when occupants are unable to do so.

The modernization of GPS will further facilitate disaster relief and public safety services. The addition of new civil signals will increase accuracy and reliability all over the world. In short, GPS modernization translates to more lives saved and faster recovery for victims of global tragedies.

Public safety and disaster relief, GPS.gov, http://www.gps.gov/applications/safety/

“The data from the Southern California Integrated GPS Network will allow us to anticipate future earthquakes with more accuracy, as well as to study in much greater detail the fundamental processes of crustal deformation that are the root causes of earthquakes.” Dr. Thomas Jordan, Director Designate, Southern California Earthquake Center.

Deliver disaster relief to areas in a more timely and accurate manner, saving lives and restoring critical infrastructure.

Provide position information for mapping of disaster regions where little or no mapping information is available.

Enhance capability for flood prediction and monitoring of seismic precursors and events.

Provide positional information about individuals with mobile phones and in vehicles in case of emergency.

A disaster can be caused by government humans or nature. Disasters are events that are sometimes unpredictable. It is important for any to manage disasters. Government provides legislation, allocates resources and does rational planning and sustainable development. Disaster management and planning is a key part of government work.

Disasters require government intervention. They are not always unpredictable. Floods take place in valleys and flood plains, droughts in areas with unstable and low rainfall, and oil spills happen in shipping lanes. This predictability provides opportunities to plan for, prevent and to lessen the impact of disasters.

Disasters arise from both natural and human causes, and the responses needed could stretch community and government capacity to the limit. For example, during 2000 we saw a series of disasters in South Africa: huge floods devastated the Limpopo Province, Mpumalanga and neighbouring countries; massive fires and an oil spill threatened Cape Town; and separate floods hit rural communities in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. In 2004 Cape Town experienced a drought disaster attributed to global warming. From April 2004 to January 2005, the province experiences 376 disasters, mostly fire and flood.

Disasters are inevitable although we do not always know when and where they will happen. But their worst effects can be partially or completely prevented by preparation, early warning, and swift, decisive responses.

Disaster management aims to reduce the occurrence of disasters and to reduce the impact of those that cannot be prevented. The government White paper and Act on Disaster Management define the roles of Local Authorities as well as Provincial and National government in disaster management.

Identifying potential disaster hazards in your area

These can include all or some of the following:

Mass-event situations (concerts, sport, other social gatherings – for example the 2001 Ellis park disaster during the Pirates-Chiefs game)

Storms and storm damage;


Fires: Domestic, mountain and veld;

Oils spills, at sea, on land;

Transport accidents;

Hazardous material spills (spilling of chemicals, etc from factories, trucks);


disaster management, South African Government programmes and policies

Disaster management is a process or strategy that is implemented when any type of catastrophic event takes place. Sometimes referred to as disaster recovery management, the process may be initiated when anything threatens to disrupt normal operations or puts the lives of human beings at risk. Governments on all levels as well as many businesses create some sort of disaster plan that make it possible to overcome the catastrophe and return to normal function as quickly as possible.

One of the essential elements of disaster management involves defining the types of catastrophes that could possibly disrupt the day to day operation of a city, town, business, or country.

Identifying those potential disasters makes it possible to create contingency plans, assemble supplies, and create procedures that can be initiated when and if a given disaster does come to pass. A truly comprehensive disaster management plan will encompass a wide range of possibilities that can easily be adapted in the event one disaster sets off a chain reaction of other types of disasters in its wake.

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Because of the need to continue functioning in emergency situations, disaster management plans are often multi-layered and can address such issues as floods, hurricanes, fires, bombings, and even mass failures of utilities or the rapid spread of disease. The disaster plan is likely to address such as important matters as evacuating people from an impacted region, arranging temporary housing, food, and medical care. It is not unusual for the plan to also work toward containing and possibly neutralizing the root causes of the disaster if at all possible.

The process of disaster management will often address the issue of ongoing communication. Since many disasters can cause communication networks to fail, a competent disaster plan will include the quick setup of alternative communication capabilities that do not rely on the various switches, towers and hubs that are usually part of telephone and cellular communication networks. Often making use of short-wave transmissions that are supported with satellite technology, the communication flow can continue from the area impacted by the disaster to other points where aid can be extended when and as possible.



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