TagHaiti

Update on GIS information for Haiti

We all woke up this morning to see news that another earthquake has happened in Haiti, near the center of the first one eight days ago.

“The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) employed nearly 400 Haitians in cash-for-work activities to jump start the local economy and facilitate the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance.”

This post is an update to my previous article about how GIS is used for disaster relief efforts. I recently came across a webpage on Harvard’s China Earthquake Geospatial Research Portal that lists copious, up-to-date, GIS-compatible data from organizations around the world. The portal began in response to the Sichuan, China, earthquake in May 2008.

Visit the Haiti GIS Data Portal now.

For new GIS students, this would be a great starting point for a class final project. The Portal is hosting the datasets as a public service and invites anyone with relevant data to submit it to the site operators for wider dissemination. Data comes from the United Nations, several universities, OpenStreetMap contributors, and the German Center for Air and Space Travel, among others.

“Petty Officer 3rd Class Cameron Croteau, a Damage Controlman aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Oak, carries an injured Haitian girl to an awaiting Coast Guard HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010. Coast Guard and Navy helicopters airlifted injured Haitians to a private hospital in Milot, Haiti. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandyn Hill.”

As I mentioned in the previous post, there are many photos on Flickr when you search for “haiti earthquake.” When I wrote the post on January 14, 2010, there were only about 300 photos, and now there are over 6,900. Only 1,200 have a Creative Commons license, though (both of the photos above have a Creative Commons license). It seems that the United States Military, the United Nations, and major relief organizations are providing the majority of photos. And they’re uploading them fast. The number of photos on Flickr jumped by 50 from when I started this paragraph.

How GIS helps earthquake relief efforts for Haiti

While Geographic Information systems software can definitely produce pretty maps, its power lies in analyzing data and plotting or comparing sensory or observed data to spatial data (like roads or terrain). The earthquake in Haiti rocked the capital city, Port-au-Prince with a shock of magnitude 7.0 on Tuesday, January 12, 2010.

A photo from a United States military flyover shows damage in the Port of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo taken by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sondra-Kay Kneen and uploaded by Chuck Simmins.

There are several applications for GIS to help with earthquake response, and two blog posts that appeared this morning shed light on how.

The first article came from ESRI, the California-based makers of ArcGIS, the most used GIS application. The article linked to a user-built map on their ArcGIS Online service showing on Bing maps where the earthquake and its aftershocks struck (the map sits behind a registration wall). ESRI even has a disaster response team that helps organizations get their response projects off the ground quickly.

Infrastructurist posted the second article, showing some before and after satellite imagery of Haiti, provided by Google and GeoEye.

So what can GIS do? From ESRI’s list, “GIS for Disaster Response“:

  • Rapid identification of potential shelter/housing locations (schools, libraries, churches, public buildings) appropriate for supporting affected populations.
  • Determine how many tents will be needed based on the location of populations affected by the disaster.
  • Analyze areas where large numbers of refugees can establish camps out of harm’s way that are accessible for supply delivery and have access to water and other resources necessary to support large numbers of people.
  • Many more examples.

Want more information? Here’s where to get it:

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