GEOG 588
Planning GIS for Emergency Management

Term Project Description


Term Project Overview

This course is built around a term project that each of you will complete to integrate your understanding of GIS system design with what you learn about how GIS can be applied to Emergency Management scenarios. You will select ONE project option from the list below and complete a design or funding proposal related to GIS in Emergency Management. To a large degree, you will have the freedom to shape the specifics of your term project around GIS systems and/or Emergency Management contexts as you desire. I hope that this allows you to either focus on a topic related to your day-to-day work, or choose an area that sparks your curiosity.

Each week, you will notice at least one page of the Lesson dedicated to a goal or assignment associated with your term project. In about half of those Lessons, you will have one graded deliverable related to your final project. I've developed a project schedule that is designed to make sure you make steady progress on the term project and that also ensures that we have one full round of draft editing to refine your work. I don't like classes that end with submitting a final project with no chance to do any revisions. That seems silly to me.

Term Project Options

Here are four options you have for your term project. You can choose one of these options. If you'd like to riff on one of these and take it in a different direction, by all means, do so! These are really just suggestions - I want you to be innovative and surprise me with your good ideas for projects. I also know that many of you just want to know what would be a good example project focus, which is why I've listed these options here.

  • OPTION 1: Propose a new GIS system that uses geospatially-capable mobile devices for early responders in crisis situations. Assume that the early responders in question have very little time to train with these devices before having to use them in an emergency situation. Identify the key tasks that the devices must support, and consider that emergency responders must focus most of their attention on addressing the emergency – not on working with a mobile device. Present your work in the form of a system design proposal that outlines the goals of the system and describes how it would be designed and implemented in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
  • OPTION 2: Audit the GIS system you use for emergency management in your workplace. Assume you have access to funding to make significant changes to this system. Identify key leverage points for making changes to the system that will maximize the impact that the new system will have on handling emergency management problems. Present your work in the form of a strategic plan that begins with a description of the existing system. The plan should then cover the goals of the improved system and present a set of possible changes to the system that have been prioritized so that decision makers could make decisions about funding allocations accordingly.
  • OPTION 3: Research a recent disaster and describe how different types of GIS systems were used to respond to the situation and mitigate its impact. Then propose a general design for a new GIS system based on what was learned from the disaster (assume you will receive substantial, but not unlimited funding). Consider recent technological and social trends in GIS and emergency management that you could leverage with the new system (e.g., mobile devices, non-expert systems, map mashups, etc…) and incorporate those trends into a system design proposal that includes a section up front describing the lessons learned from the disaster you researched.
  • OPTION 4: Ultimately, there are lots of people involved in the success of a GIS system. There are technical experts who may be in charge of database development, cartographers in charge of developing visuals for situational awareness, decision makers who have to weigh all of the information and act expediently, and members of the media & public who consume and disseminate information. Propose a design study for a specific emergency management context (forest fires, hurricanes, etc…) that focuses on identifying the GIS-related needs of these different types of people. Consider the range of possible system design strategies when creating your proposal.

Deliverables (for Future Lessons)

The term project includes the following deliverables that will be assigned to you in future lessons:

  • 1 paragraph project abstract indicating which project option you chose and describing in general terms what you will cover (5 points, 5% of your grade) - assigned in Lesson 2
  • Project Abstract and Structural Outline (headings and several bullets under each heading for the main topics you'll cover) (10 points, 5% of your grade) - assigned in Lesson 4
  • Full Draft of Term Project, no longer than 2500 words (20 points, 10% of your grade) - assigned in Lesson 6
  • Revised Final Term Project, no longer than 2500 words (30 points, 15% of your grade) - assigned in Lesson 10
  • 5 Minute Video Presentation of Term Project (10 points, 5% of your grade) - assigned in Lesson 10

Look for details on each deliverable (including specific due dates) in future lessons.


Term projects will be graded using this rubric. (PDF, 200k)