GEOG 588
Planning GIS for Emergency Management

Reading Assignment


The readings for this week focus on the second key component of emergency management, preparedness. You will read a short chapter in your text and two papers that address different aspects of GIS applied to preparedness.

As you read, it is important to read critically and not necessarily accept what you read at face value, even if it appears in a peer-reviewed journal. Many of the course assignments are aimed at helping you build the skills to assess published reports on GIS technology objectively and critically. There are multiple perspectives from which to critically assess what you read. No papers can cover all issues and no author is all-knowing; thus, it is likely that you know something relevant that the author does not (or that he/she did not consider relevant, but that is relevant from your perspective). Methods of data processing and analysis that might be acceptable in one discipline may be at odds with established methods in another discipline, so you will find disagreement among authors about what methods are “right.” People make mistakes (in their original conceptualization of a problem, in carrying out work, and in interpreting the results) – and your practical experience and/or solid grounding in GIS may give you special insight to identify these mistakes. In many cases, the authors may have limited practical knowledge, thus may completely ignore issues that are critical in a real world context.

  1. From "GIS for Disaster Management": Chapter 5 - Geographic Information Systems and Disaster Planning and Preparedness (pp. 151-182)

    This chapter focuses on the various ways preparation can be characterized in the context of GIS, as well as some of the key methods by which geospatial tools can be used to support near-term preparation when we know a disaster is about to strike.


    What are some of the specific ways in which preparedness is different from mitigation? You might consider this from the perspective presented by text author or (more interestingly) from the perspective of a GIS manager in a state Emergency Operations Center, from the perspective of a local regional government deciding whether to invest in GIS, or from the point of view of a citizen who expects service from their government. How might GIS activities to support preparedness differ for different kinds of emergencies – what are examples of different kinds of emergencies in which preparedness activities would differ?

  2. Read: Mondschein, L. G. 1994, The role of spatial information systems in environmental emergency management. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 45(9), 678-685.

    The focus of this paper is on the use of geographic information by environmental managers and emergency responders. While this paper is crazy old now (I was an undergraduate), it introduces several issues that remain relevant. Among these are the importance of understanding relevant national, state, and local laws that relate to emergency management and recognizing that many of the users of geospatial (and other) information technology in crisis situations will not be trained to use GIS.


    How does this characterization of the situation in 1994 compare to the situation today … which issues that are raised in the paper have been addressed and which issue remain important? What are the specific implications of the ideas expressed for preparedness?

  3. Read: Amram, O., Schuurman, N., Hameed, S. M. 2011, Mass Casualty Modelling: A Spatial Tool to Support Triage Decision Making. International Journal of Health Geographics, 10(40).

    This paper presents an approach to modelling the ability to move casualties in an urban environment to appropriate hospitals. The authors show how they can use road network and hospital data in a web interface to identify the location of a large number of casualties and then find the most efficient way to transport those people to available health facilities.


    The concepts and the system described were developed and applied in Canada – would anything about this need to be altered to support crisis management work in the U.S. (or other countries)? The focus here is on transporting casualties to hospitals without actually trying to model impacts from the event that causes those casualties in the first place, so what would differ if you wanted to apply this basic strategy to preparedness in the context of a flood or urban toxic chemical release?