Over the last few years, the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management has utilized technology to improve its abilities to handle collection and dissemination of information, both on a day-to-day basis and also during times of disaster. It is incumbent on professional emergency management agencies to be aware of how useful technology can be before, during, and after a disaster occurs. In particular, the relatively recent ability of everyday citizens to have access to GPS receivers enlarges the possibilities of how geospatial information can be utilized in the field of emergency management.
Geospatial information is more than just a handheld GPS receiver used to navigate personal travel. Digital maps can unite people across the world and even save lives. After last January’s earthquake in Haiti, geographic information systems helped first responders map cities, locate survivors, and distribute aid.
Penn State University has recently received a series of work entitled “The Geospatial Revolution Project.” It is an overview of modern mapping, focusing on GPS (like Garmin units in a vehicle, smartphones, etc..), taking a look at GPS’s impact both on our daily lives and on the world at large. The mission of the Geospatial Revolution Project is to expand public knowledge about the history, applications, related privacy and legal issues, and the potential future of location-based technologies. The first episode is a 13 minute documentary that takes a look at a timeline history of mapping —- including an examination of GPS use to provide humanitarian aid during the Haiti earthquake relief efforts. Despite the destruction wrought by the earthquake, about two-thirds of phone lines remained standing–the most resilient bit of infrastructure–and that allowed some ingenious rescue methods that would have been impossible even a few years earlier.
The 13-minute video uses the earthquake in Haiti to highlight how geospatial technology is critical in providing first responders with the information they need to help victims. This video can be accessed at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwVig_cAU7U