GEOG 588
Planning GIS for Emergency Management

Lesson 1 Overview


Course Overview 

In my opinion, there is an interesting paradox with GIS and crisis management - we continually develop new and improved methods for handling disaster situations, but our increasingly complicated societies, economies, and infrastructures increase the challenges associated with disasters. People and their environments are more interconnected than ever, and GIS is in many cases the most appropriate mechanism for analyzing and rectifying emergency situations.

Lidar image of new jersey shore prior to Hurricane Sandy

Lidar image of new jersey shore following Hurricane Sandy

These USGS LIDAR images show changes to the coastal zone in New Jersey as a result of Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012. New geospatial technologies like LIDAR make it possible to more deeply understand and plan for the impacts of major disasters.

There are four key phases of emergency management: vulnerability assessment, preparedness, response, and recovery. In subsequent lessons, we will explore each of those topics in detail. Later, we will work together to research methods for designing GIS systems for emergency management contexts, and we will explore how GIS has been used in a variety of ways in recent disasters.

Each week, you will learn about an emerging technology trend and how it relates to GIS and crisis management. One of my goals is to make sure you learn about and consider new trends and themes in technology and imagine how those advances can and will impact GIS for Emergency Management in the future. The GIS planning activities you participate in now should take into account new types of technologies that will be commonplace in the next 5-10 years.

Map showing volunteered geographic information to highlight damaged areas after the 2015 Nepal Earthquake

Crowdsourcing approaches for damage assessment are becoming more popular than ever, with platforms like Tomnod used to leverage digital volunteers, as shown here for the 2015 Nepal Earthquake.


At the successful completion of Lesson 1, students should be able to:

  • develop a basic understanding of the role of GIS in Emergency Management;
  • review a recent technology trend and discuss how it relates to GIS and Emergency Management;
  • become familiar with the final project assignment for this class;
  • read about GIS in Emergency Management and discuss what you learn with your classmates.


If you have questions now or at any point during this week, please feel free to post them in the Lesson 1 Questions and Comments Discussion in Canvas.