1. Assess the value of geospatial data and tools in disaster planning and disaster response;

  2. Identify the status of and needs for decision support tools that assimilate model predictions and data for mapping vulnerability to catastrophe, scenario testing, disaster planning, and logistical support;

  3. Identify the mission-critical data requirements for effective decision making;

  4. Examine technical and institutional mechanisms that enable rapid discovery, access, and assemblage of data from diverse sources;

  5. Assess training needs for developers and users of spatial decision support systems; and

  6. Examine potential conflicts between issues of security and the need for open access to data.

The committee met four times to gather the information needed for the study and write the report. The first two meetings included presentations by various federal agencies and private industry organizations that described how geospatial data and tools are currently being used for emergency management and discussed issues related to their use. The third meeting was a workshop consisting of five discussion panels. The 25 panelists included a broad range of specialists in various aspects of emergency management from city, county, state, and federal government, private industry, academia, nongovernmental organizations, and the United Nations. (See Appendix D.) Breakout sessions with these experts were also held to obtain further insights on the study tasks. After acquiring and synthesizing a general overview of the value of and needs for geospatial data and tools in emergency management through these meetings, published documents, and the expertise of its members, the committee focused on the status of their use (i.e., how much and how effectively they are currently being used and what is preventing better utilization). Recommendations were then developed to address each of these challenges.

The report is structured as follows. The remainder of this chapter defines the major terms used in the report. Chapter 2 presents three scenarios, one real and two hypothetical, to illustrate how geospatial data and tools are currently used in emergency response and how better utilization could improve response. Chapter 3 goes into more detail about disasters and emergency response, to provide context and describe the needs of emergency responders, and reviews how current federal-level emergency management policies address geospatial data and tools. Chapter 4 then presents issues and challenges that are impeding the effective use of geospatial data and tools and provides recommendations for addressing these challenges. Chapter 5 provides guidelines that can be used by emergency managers to review their “geospatial preparedness” to respond to disasters. Finally, Chapter 6 offers some thoughts for the future.

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