A variety of geospatial tools exist that can meet a wide range of emergency management needs. The following material describes these tools, how they are used, and issues that inhibit their successful exploitation. Since another recent NRC report has an extensive discussion of technologies and methods for disaster research that includes geospatial data, research, and technology (NRC, 2006), this report focuses on impediments to the take-up of existing tools and the need to adapt them better to the conditions of emergency management.
Visualization tools provide the opportunity to visualize features of the pre- and post-event world individually or simultaneously. These features may include hazards (fault zones, potential hurricane landfall areas, and flood inundation areas) and risks (potential hurricane damage zones based on projected wind speed and its impact on population, building types, and critical infrastructure). These may be stand-alone tools for operation on a single system or server-based tools designed for Internet or intranet use, allowing an operator in one location to view data stored on a server at a remote location. It is also possible to perform data-mining operations on the data through the display-tool interface to determine critical relationships between hazards, disaster events, and the most appropriate actions.
Analysis tools include a wide range of models performing a hierarchy of functions, from models indicating impact area and expected severity (shaking or wind speed), to those showing expected damage (combining shaking or wind speed with geology and construction type), to models to determine evacuation routes based upon the road network and traffic flow (see Figures 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3). They can include validated atmospheric models such as those used by the National Hurricane Center; atmospheric plume models used by the national laboratories; waterborne plume models used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); earthquake and wind damage models used by FEMA, the Department of Defense, and others; hydraulic and hydrologic models used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; or empirical models used by the Corps to estimate debris volume from disasters. They also include high-interaction computer graphics, three-dimensional virtual reality media, and other visualization techniques that promote realistic simulations of disastrous events and planned responses.
Decision support systems assist emergency and other managers in making the best decisions based upon conditions as they are known at a particular point in time. These systems are often a combination of display capabilities, one or more models, and visualization and data analysis functions. With high-resolution digital elevation models, hydrology and hy-