GEOG 858
Spatial Data Science for Emergency Management

Emerging Theme: Real-time Mapping and Spatial Analytics



This week’s emerging theme focuses on the topic of looking at disasters and maintaining situation awareness in (near) real time. To complete this section, you will need to:

  • review a short video and reading to get you started;
  • use ArcGIS Online to create your own emergency response dashboard;
  • identify and add live data feeds to your dashboard;
  • conduct analysis to develop situation awareness that can be used to target response resources; and
  • write a short report summarizing your work and findings.

Real-Time Mapping and Spatial Analytics

For this exercise, we are going to focus primarily on the Solutions for Emergency Management apps that have been developed by Esri and are based on their suite of ArcGIS technologies, especially cloud and web-based GIS services. Also, see Esri’s Disaster Response Program website for the help the company offers during emergencies. There are other systems out there, some that leverage major industry platforms and some that are developed in-house from open-source software (e.g., recall InaSAFE, PDC, and even Google Crisis Response).

Regardless of the system being used, they have similar goals such as providing:

  • base maps and other datasets that can be prepared beforehand and deployed during an event, e.g., road networks, building footprints;
  • infrastructure for communicating with a range of stakeholders from local first responders, EOCs, specialists working at a distance, and the general public;
  • a means to upload data, including real-time, from the field and other sources;
  • rapid analysis and then uploading and sharing derived products, e.g., spatial data analytics, rapid image processing for damage assessment; and
  • visualize diverse datasets in an easy to update and understandable format, e.g., multiple map displays on a dashboard with other charts, figures, and video feeds.

Before developing your own situation awareness app, have a look at the two videos and the optional reading below. The first (short) video is an overview of a case study where these approaches are used by the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). The second (longer) video provides more detailed examples about incorporating live data feeds into a situational awareness app and dashboard using Esri tools. These concepts are further discussed in the optional reading from The ArcGIS Book.

ArcGIS Online Case Study: Emergency Management – Cal OES (3:54 minutes)

Click here for a transcript of the ArcGIS Online Case Study: Emergency Management – Cal OES video.


DAN BOUT: My name is Dan Bout. And I serve as the assistant director for response at the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services. Cal OES is responsible for all disasters that occur in California that exceed the locals' abilities to respond to them. Far and away, the biggest challenge we have as it relates to data in an incident is synthesizing data into information that's useful. So there's a huge potential for miscommunication. And as you get more and more data feeds, that becomes a more and more salient issue.


PRESENTER 1: Here is the latest on the breaking news we're following out of northern California. A strong earthquake rocked--

PRESENTER 2: Parts of Napa got hit hard, hammered by this quake early this morning. One example--

JOSE LARA: The Napa earthquake truly showed us the power of visualizing information. The ability that we had at that time to create flat maps in a not-so-speedy way showed a gap that we had in our ability to really visualize the information, get it out in a fast manner.

CHI SMITH: The people on the ground, they need the tools so that problems can be solved during activation, so resources could be deployed timely and effectively.

JOSE LARA: So during the Napa earthquake, the decision was made to bring Esri into-- show us what is possible, what capabilities they have.

DAN BOUT: That was actually, I think, probably one of those key-use cases for moving to a digital map. The ability to start seeing water leaks in real time and like, OK, when did that happen? Three minutes ago. That is something that you couldn't do with a paper map.

JOSE LARA: We went from, at best, 5% of online products to 95%. And that actually happened in about, say, six or nine months of the Napa earthquake.

DUANE VALENZUELA: Now you have all the current data that's available. And it may change as you're looking at it. And it's real time. You're looking at what's happening now, not what happened 12 hours ago.

JOSE LARA: What they showed us that day during the Napa earthquake was a story. It's interactive. It allows us to take a look at the shape map, take a look at the shelters, take a look at whatever information that we're discussing. This allows us to be able to really give decision makers what they need.

CHI SMITH: GIS changed the way we do business. We now have the go-to products. We know that this is what we need to do as a requirement. So that would be part of our common operational picture.

DUANE VALENZUELA: During the fires was the first time we really use the dashboards this year. And we were able provide a visual of acreage burn, current damage assessments. The dashboard provides that snapshot that saves time. Instead of somebody stopping in the middle of an operation to brief someone, they can just walk in and look at the wall and see exactly what they want to see.

DAN BOUT: One of the areas that I think we're deliberately going to move to is taking a tool like our GIS mapping capability and using that as a mitigation tool.

JOSE LARA: Where I see us going is to get hooked up to every single county statewide, so when an event happens, we flip the switch on and absorb their data. And then I can just visualize.

DAN BOUT: The bottom line in emergency management is we are going to be successful. There's not a lot of trying involved. You have to make it work because it's-- it's people's lives. It's families. It's their property. I mean, it's the things that are most core to our identity and to who we see ourselves as, as a nation.

CHI SMITH: The technology is there. And we know that it's available. And we've leveraged to the best of our abilities. It's my dream come true. I mean, it's great.


Credit: Esri

Leveraging Live Feeds for Situational Awareness (55:39 minutes)

I know this is a long video. If you don't have time to watch the entire video, please have a look at the first 10-15 minutes or so.  

Credit: Esri

Optional Reading

Chapter 9: Mapping The Internet Of Things from The ArcGIS Book

As a companion to the two videos, you might want to have a look at this book chapter from Esri. At least keep it in mind as a resource as you work through the rest of the exercise.


There is no Emerging Theme Discussion this week.

The next page will provide you with the details of the Exercise and writing assignment that are due this week.