GEOG 858
Spatial Data Science for Emergency Management

Emerging Theme: New Methods for Interaction with Location


This week, I’d like you to take a look at a few very exciting technology demonstrations that I think are relevant to spatial data science applications for emergency management. These videos show the cutting edge of what is possible with computers, and I think it’s quite reasonable to expect that in the next 5 years or so these things will become quite common in consumer and professional systems.

Throughout this course, we will be considering information from different viewpoints, including industry, government, NGO, and academia.

Let's start with this video about the ways spatial data and technology are being used (to varying effect) to address different aspects of the COVID-19 response. 

How geospatial technologies can help combat COVID-19 (3:15 minutes)

How geospatial technologies can help combat #COVID-19.
Click here for a transcript

Music playing

Credit: Geospatial World

The next video is from the DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s Next Generation First Responder Program and describe how emerging technology, including geospatial, are being incorporated in first response situations. They both describe a high level of integration amongst technology. Think about how this might fall down in a real emergency situation.

Next Generation First Responder (5:22 minutes)

Next Generation First Responder
Click here for a transcript.

Next Generation First Responder


SERGEANT PARKER: Confirm what appears to be a building explosion and fire at the intersection of Hughes and Third.

DISPATCHER: Roger, 734. Additional units and fire are en route. Fire will provide incident command. I am patching your body cam feed to command now.

SERGEANT PARKER: Roger, dispatch.


OFFICER: What do we have, Sarge?

SERGEANT PARKER: Pretty much what the 911 caller reported. It looks like a building explosion.

OFFICER: The fire command is set up one block over. Williams and Moore are over there.

SERGEANT PARKER: Audrey, patch this call to Corporal Williams on his radio.

AUDREY: Copy that, Sergeant Parker. Patching you to Corporal Williams, located two blocks east on Third Avenue.



SERGEANT PARKER: Corporal, this is Sergeant Parker.


SERGEANT PARKER: You've got Incident command setting up over there where you are. I need you to reroute traffic and keep onlookers way back so fire and EMS can get through.

CORPORAL WILLIAMS: Roger. Already on it. Sarge, check your phone. We got an alert.

SERGEANT PARKER: Audrey, get me incident command, any path.

AUDREY: Linked to incident command.


SERGEANT PARKER: Command, this is Sergeant Parker.

BATTALION CHIEF BENDER: Battalion Chief Bender here, Sergeant. I see you're on the northwest corner. From your video, it looks like the building entrance is blocked with debris.

SERGEANT PARKER: It's going to take some digging to get inside.

BATTALION CHIEF BENDER: We're linked to the closed circuit cameras in the building. We also have a drone up overhead showing two large hot spots on the top floor. But a witness says there are at least two people still in the building, so I'm sending a team to the Third Street entrance.

FIREFIGHTER: I've got two civilians here.


Who's in trouble?

FIRE CHIEF: Fire Team One, it looks like we have a mayday. Firefighter Thompson is down. Heart and breathing rates spiking.

FIREFIGHTER: We're on it, chief. He got pinned by a chunk of ceiling. We're also bringing out two civilians. We put vital sensors on them. EMS should be getting readings now.

FIRE CHIEF: EMS, do you copy the message from Fire Team One.

EMT: Got it, chief. I'm getting vital signs on one firefighter, two civilians. Looks like we have two red tagged patients with severe burns and trouble breathing and a firefighter with possible crush injury. I need you to start the IV and get ready to intubate. Audrey, connect me to the nearest trauma center.

AUDREY: Linking to St. Anthony's trauma center, 3.7 miles. Estimated travel time, seven minutes.

NURSE: This is Miriam Zheng. Go ahead, EMS.

EMT: I have three victims, two civilians, one firefighter. I don't have eyes on them yet, but I'm sending you telemetry.

NURSE: Yes, I see the data. Definitely two red tags there. Do you have RSI medications ready and prepared to intubate if needed?

FIRE CHIEF: We do. Soon as we get them stabilized and we're on the way, I'll send more telemetry and detailed assessment information.

NURSE: OK, we'll be ready. Thanks for the heads up. I'll continue monitoring their vitals and transport.

EMT: Audrey, patch me to command.

FIRE CHIEF: This is command. Go, EMS.

EMT: Chief, we have two victims in serious, maybe critical condition. I'm recommending a medevac.

FIRE CHIEF: Copy that. I'll alert aviation. There's a park two blocks east of here. Looks like the best landing site. I'll have law enforcement cordon it off.

CCTV REVIEWER 1: I have the view from a camera on a building across the street. It looks under control.

CCTV REVIEWER 2: I have a white SUV matching the description on two traffic cams headed east on Third past Tacony. I think I can pull the plate number from that.

COMMANDER: OK, great work. Let's datacast the route that vehicle's on to all patrol units, and when we get the plate number, let's send that out, as well.


OFFICER: Good job, Sarge.

NARRATOR: First responders today have nothing like the communications tools in this video, but we are making progress. Through its Next Generation First Responder Program, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate is leading the effort to develop these capabilities and get them into the hands of responders in the next five years. It's important work that will help law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical personnel save lives, protect property, and enhance security in communities everywhere.

Credit: DHS Science and Technology Directorate

Finally, take a look at the I-React project funded by the European Commission that use augmented reality in an disaster response situation. Visit this website and watch the video below.  

Emergency Management with Augmented Reality (4:00 minutes)

Emergency Management with Augmented Reality
Click here for a transcript

NARRATOR: Environmental catastrophes have reached levels that have never been recorded anywhere in the world. To face such a powerful and often unpredictable events, it is essential to work on prevention and emergency management. Nowadays, a smartphone application can be a valid tool to save lives.

PRESENTER: In the last 10 years, natural disasters have caused around 7 million casualties in Europe alone, and up to 113 billion euros of overall economic losses. Floods are the biggest hazard in the EU, in terms of people affected and economic damage.

At the Civil Protection Control Room in Turin, it's an emergency simulation day. Developers from the I-React team are here to lead their final tests on a smartphone app improving risk management systems that will help citizens to cope with climate related disasters. The app is part of a complex system which processes large amounts of data and generates valuable information during a natural disaster.

NARRATOR: I-React, as we saw during the exercise, gives us the ability to gather your reference data on the ground to know where the critical points are and to know what is happening and what main information is needed.

PRESENTER: I-React is the first European-wide platform to integrate emergency management data coming from multiple sources, including satellite climate services and weather forecasts, combined with information sent by emergency workers and citizens through the mobile app. It provides real-time pictures of the situation.

NARRATOR: The data from the I-React system is generated by devices that are present in our daily lives, such as applications on our smartphones, social networks, and above all, e-matches and data from the Copernicus Satellite System.

PRESENTER: The app, which was issued by a European research project, is meant to be a valuable tool for emergency workers. But not only that, it also allows for involvement of citizens, who can be an important element in the information gathering process.

NARRATOR: This app is designed for ordinary people, not only for civil protection, to send reports on an emergency situation and to receive reports from an operation center.

PRESENTER: Civil protection volunteers are often first on the scene during an environmental emergency, that's why an easy to use device is key for their mission.

NARRATOR: I found it extremely simple and fast. In a real emergency, it's important to send updates on the situation in real-time, not only with words, but with images.

PRESENTER: I-React enables the operators to gather and send data in different ways during an emergency operation. In addition to smartphones, stakeholders are also equipped with smart glasses and other wearable georeference devices so they can receive and send information without using their hands.

NARRATOR: What I'm wearing is a prototype of augmented reality glasses, able to perform some functions that can also be performed on the app. For example, if there is a river that is flooding, I can take a picture. I follow the same steps I would do with my cellphone, but in this case using only one hand. And thanks to this remote control, I can send the report to the operations center.

PRESENTER: After having tested the effectiveness of the app during an international civil protection exercise in 2018, researchers of the pan-European I-React Team are currently fine-tuning the system before they release it to the emergency management market at the end of this year.


Digital Twins (4:24 minutes)

Digital twin city Sydney
Click here for a transcript

Music Playing

Credit: Lunas


  1. Post a comment in the Emerging Theme Discussion (L1) forum that describes how you envision one or more of these technologies integrating into a spatial data science for emergency management. Do you see any problems with integration, or, perhaps, you don't think we should consider them for emergency situations. That could be a valid position to take as well.
  2. The initial post should be completed during the first 5 days of the lesson.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 Emerging Theme Discussion (L1) 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.