the emergency management community often seen as conservative with regard to the adoption of new technologies, presents a challenge. Without the support—and preferably the leadership—of the emergency management community, the geospatial data community’s own efforts will have little benefit.
The committee heard from many federal, state, and local emergency management professionals during its deliberations and during the study’s workshop, as well as from several representatives of the private sector and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). All testified to the central importance of geospatial information. The first questions responders ask when a disaster occurs are, Where is it? Where are the victims? Where are the hazards? Where are the resources? The first request from an incident commander is often for a map, and the need is immediate. Responders must act within a “golden hour,” during which delivering victims to appropriate care providers has the best chance of saving lives.
Data on the cost savings from more effective emergency management are almost impossible to compile, in part because many benefits, such as lives saved, are impossible to value and in part because any form of controlled experiment in which costs are compared with and without effective emergency management is impossible to conduct. Nevertheless some of the more direct cost savings might be quantified, in certain limited contexts. For example, The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices published an Issue Brief on State Strategies for Using IT for an All-Hazards Approach to Homeland Security (July 13, 2006).1 In the section about geographic information systems (GIS), it has the following paragraph:
State and local governments in Virginia combined their efforts in October 2001 to launch the Virginia Base Mapping Program (VBMP) for use in deploying resources and personnel during disasters. At an estimated cost of $8.2 million, this program began delivering DVDs [digital video discs] with GIS technology to 134 cities and counties in February 2003, providing information about transportation systems, private-sector facilities, natural resources, and many other assets. Although measures of lives saved, injuries averted, and property damage avoided are difficult to calculate, it is estimated that in its first year the VBMP saved the state between $5 million and $8 million in operating costs.
Responders and managers need to be able to work with several map layers or themes. The most important layer to them is the search grid, which must be established quickly and applied by all agencies working