Large Scale Disasters

Geographic information systems (GIS) play a key supporting role to local, state and regional emergency managers and first responders. In general, the larger the disaster, the longer the response and recovery period takes, and the more that national resources are involved, the more valuable GIS is for coordination and efficiency.

The power of GIS is the ability to integrate information from different sources, including existing systems and new information reported from humans in the field. GIS capabilities are paramount for tracking, analysis and visualization of situational and operational awareness. To maximize effectiveness, location information is needed for everything in a disaster including: search and rescue, evacuation and temporary shelter, ongoing weather impacts, damage assessments, resupply logistics, and even the accountability for relief funding.

A full spectrum of mapping technology is utilized for emergency response including mobile apps, desktop GIS apps, and region-wide common operating picture maps that can synthesize and display information across multiple states impacted by the disaster. In a disaster situation, agencies including those brought in from out of the area must work together efficiently. Having digital mapping resources that, in particular, depict damaged areas, the local addressing system, and key response facilities is critical to supporting the teamwork needed to save lives and protect property.

NSGIC has been a strong advocate for coordination among states, sharing of best practices, and preparations to ensure that GIS and other map-based technology are ready should disaster strike. NSGIC's Geospatial Preparedness Committee has worked across state emergency management offices and the Department of Homeland Security to:

  • Build assessment, guideline, and technical exchange resources drawing on state-level efforts
  • Advocate for open, accessible data resources including key state GIS data resources registered with the NSGIC GIS Inventory and data.gov
  • Create a professional network and directory of state and national GIS professionals working in this field

Visit the geospatial preparedness resources page in our library.