serious impediment to better use of geospatial data and tools for disaster management is that “uninformed, overwhelmed public officials get sold expensive systems they don’t need and don’t know how to use.” Several testified to the need for a “common denominator” set of tools with designs based on user requirements. Moreover, such tools must be simple, easy to use, and tailored to what users really need (for example, functions to assist navigation through the application, functions for basic query and measurement of location, and tools for the management of saved files). At the same time, users often fail to take advantage of capabilities because they are unfamiliar with them. Typically, users only encounter geospatial data and tools during emergencies, so they do not know what is available or how to make use of it. Also, it can be hard to get users to adopt new technology, especially in the midst of an event when novel approaches feel like distractions rather than solutions to emergency responders. To address these challenges, users argue that geospatial data and tools should be integrated as a routine component of emergency planning, training, exercises, and routine incident operations, so that during major disasters they are readily available and easily incorporated.


Although numerous tools exist and may be very useful in the planning stages, they are not as effectively used during response because (1) the necessary data may be of poor quality or not available during response, or (2) the tools have not yet been fully integrated into regular response activities. The committee concludes that efforts should be made to more effectively integrate the use of geospatial tools into all phases of emergency management, as proposed in Recommendation 1. Additional research is needed on how geospatial data and tools can be used for decision support in the special conditions that prevail during emergency response.

RECOMMENDATION 8: The National Science Foundation and federal agencies with responsibility for funding research on emergency management should support the adaptation, development, and improvement of geospatial tools for the specific conditions and requirements of all phases of emergency management.


Presentations to the committee provided ample evidence of the nonuse and underutilization of geospatial data and tools, and previous sections of this report have focused on many of the causes cited by the indi-

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement