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Role of internet-based GIS in effective natural disaster management

The potential of Internet GIS for effective Disaster Management
Thousands of web sites provide images and maps of the earth, but this information remains underutilized for disaster management. Consider a disaster management application to seamlessly access, view and exploit the vast, diverse and widely distributed geospatial data holdings on the Web. Having been isolated earlier in desktop applications and back-office servers, geospatial technologies are now undergoing a transformation to become better suited for the Web. Geo-enabled web services can be integrated in space and time for better decision-making, learning, and research in the disaster management field. These services will provide more than maps, but maps are an important beginning for any disaster management effort.


Effective disaster management requires assimilation and dissemination of preplanned, historical and real-time information to many sources. This information must be relayed and understood in the shortest amount of time possible to carry out the required activities. Police agencies must communicate with government departments, which in turn notify emergency medical professionals and paramilitary forces. The channels of communication must be open at all times. Moreover, all this "talking" must occur within extremely hostile conditions; earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and other events are time sensitive and don't leave much room for delay or faulty communications

Enter Internet GIS, which can be used to plan for, respond to and recover from emergency situations, providing personnel the most accurate information when its most needed - constantly. In other words, Internet GIS gives the emergency management professionals the ability to assemble large amounts of public information about their community, and analyze and use the information in an efficient, intelligent manner. GIS data organization format displays graphic data in a format, which is easy to understand. The system's database may show boundaries, topography, road network, utility and supply lines and other features vital to disaster planning. Linked with an extensive database that provides capabilities for real-time command and control, Internet GIS transforms disaster response into regular emergency management exercise.

Stages in the Disaster Management Lifecycle
There are five important phases of disaster management: disaster prevention, disaster mitigation, disaster preparedness, emergency management, and disaster recovery. Of these, disaster prevention, disaster mitigation, and disaster preparedness constitute the pre-disaster planning phase. Pre-disaster planning is the process of preparing in advance, to meet a future disaster. Disaster prevention is the action taken to eliminate or avoid harmful natural phenomena and their effects. Disaster mitigation is the action that deals with reducing human suffering and property loss. Disaster preparedness encompasses those actions, which are taken to limit the impact of natural phenomena by structuring response and establishing a mechanism for effecting a quick and orderly reaction. Emergency management covers responding to disasters by various organizations, providing many services that need to be mobilized on a moment's notice, and functioning for an indeterminate period in a coordinated manner under stressful and difficult circumstances, and may be demobilized after the emergency has abated. The ability of an agency, or a group of agencies, to manage emergencies, rather than just react to crises, is critically dependent on the availability and flow of real time and archived information from monitoring systems, thematic databases, and decision support systems that are linked through national networks. Disaster recovery is the last phase of disaster management and is concerned with providing relief after the disaster has struck. It deals with providing food and shelter to the disaster victims, restoring normal conditions and providing financial and technical assistance to rebuild.

Role of the Internet based GIS in various phases of disaster management
The Internet based GIS can be used in many ways for effective disaster management. Also, the applications of the Internet-based GIS can range over the entire disaster management cycle. Integration of the GIS and the Internet technology can be used to significantly increase the usage and accessibility of the spatial data, which is a key requirement before, during and after any disaster. The application can function very much like a "Whiteboard In The Sky" in which a number of agencies can share event information via the Internet. The approach allows several agencies operating on different technology platforms and using different communication channels to use the Internet to collaborate while managing the natural disasters like cyclones, earthquakes etc. It provides a platform for exchanging ideas, knowledge and the latest update during the event of any disaster, which is of utmost importance. Also, Internet-based workflow management can be integrated with the GIS data & applications to manage the multiple activities of the various agencies involved in the disaster management. In a community's daily operations, a GIS can collect, maintain and store vital map information related to infrastructure, cadastre, street networks and land use, all of which is displayed graphically and supported with associated database records. The information is managed by different agencies and used in daily workflows. When information is collected across an entire community and shared among the responsible entities, a disaster management network is created.

The pre-disaster preparedness activities like risk identification, risk assessment, awareness and warning are aimed at those actions, which are taken to limit the impact of a natural phenomenon by structuring response, and for establishing a mechanism for ensuring a quick and orderly reaction. This can be organized very efficiently through the use of GIS on Internet, for example by making available the risk maps, as well as the "do's and don'ts" on the Internet. It can also allow carrying out some basic "what-if" scenario analyses. An Internet GIS based emergency management network can help in ensuring effective public safety. As city, state and national governments deploy Internet based GIS technology, there will be demand for a comprehensive, integrated approach to managing the entire range of spatial, as well as non-spatial data used in carrying out various governmental responsibilities and services. Data exchange at local, regional, city, state and national levels can be a continuous and cohesive process, resulting in better management and control of resources.


A mapping system achieves its most dramatic results in conjunction with logistics management applications. A logistics management system can include many functions, but it's basically a communications network among a community and its disaster management and response personnel. Such a system should also use radios and telephones effectively. Disaster management professionals work in a hectic and demanding world, with little time for hesitation and even less time for error. For them, a system that can dispatch complete, intelligent logistics situation maps, and update them at short intervals, could be a major tool for ensuring public safety. The use of Internet GIS can provide an effective solution for this purpose. With the help of Internet GIS, the latest information on routes, affected areas, the demographics of the affected are can be posted on the web using this all the agencies can coordinate their efforts in a more effective manner.


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