GEOG 858
Spatial Data Science for Emergency Management

Reading Assignment


The readings for this week focus on the fourth component of emergency management, response. You will read an overview chapter from your textbook, review a situation awareness briefing from FEMA during Hurricane Maria, and a book chapter on emergency management communications technology.


"GIS for Disaster Management" - Chapter 7 -  "Disaster Management and Geographic Information Systems" 

Previous readings have focused on how GIS can be used to avoid disasters, mitigate the consequences of events that may happen in the future, and prepare (in those cases where there is warning) for a disastrous event that is likely to happen (e.g., a hurricane that exists and has a predicted track and severity). These chapters focuses on how GIS can help in situations where an emergency/crisis is unfolding and shows how a well-reasoned, timely response can make a difference in the consequences of a disaster. Have a look at the entire chapter but focus on pages 192 - 203 – Geographical Aspects of Situational Awareness.


What are the key inter-agency coordination issues that should be considered to make a GIS-based response effort successful? How might recent advances in location-based services change the ways in which emergency management professionals and the public interact through geospatial information and technologies to respond to a disaster?


Situation awareness described in FEMA Geospatial Coordination Updates on two days during Hurricane Maria. The PDF's are located in Module 5 of Canvas.

These slide decks supported one of the daily coordination briefings that FEMA ran in the days up to and following Hurricane Maria. They provide a nice summary of what different FEMA teams and allied agencies are doing. It is meant to provide an overall summary of the current situation. Contrast these "hard copy" products with newer web based tools in the FEMA Geospatial Resource Center.


Take note of the range of information and resources contributing to situation awareness for this event. Does anything seem to be missing? How well do you think the work of this group may support other parts of the emergency response e.g., search and rescue teams?


Norris, C. 2018. Chapter 2 - Computer Networks and Emergency Management from Technology and Emergency Management found in Module 5 of Canvas.

Finally, I’d like you to think a bit more about communication systems during disasters. This book chapter provides some interesting, albeit a bit basic, information on communication systems and then describes some of the ways they are impacted by disasters and how they can be restored during a disaster. It is good background given how much geospatial technologies depend on reliable ICT.

You might also be interested in this late 2017 news article on What Happens to the Internet After a Disaster?


What are some of the specific geospatial challenges to communication and IT systems disruptions during emergencies? Does this make geospatial approaches vulnerable and potentially ineffective? Are there new ways for restoring these resources in a hurry?  


  1. Post a comment in the Reading Discussion (L5) forum that addresses the RESPOND prompt above during the first 5 days of the lesson.
  2. Then, I'd like you to offer additional insights, critiques, a counter-example, or something else constructive in response to your colleagues on two of the following 5 days.
  3. Brownie points for linking to other technology demos, pictures, blog posts, etc., that you've found to enrich your posts.
    NOTE: Respond to this assignment in the Reading Discussion (L5) forum by the date indicated on the course calendar.

Grading Criteria

This discussion will be graded out of 15 points.

Please see the Discussion Expectations and Grading page under the Orientation and Course Resources module for details.