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date: 15 August 2018

Supporting Natural Hazards Management with Geospatial Technologies

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Natural Hazard Science. Please check back later for the full article.

On a global scale, natural disasters continue to inflict a heavy toll on communities, posing challenges that either persist or amplify in complexity and scale. Disaster situations are often unpredictable, calling for flexible and adaptive solutions that can bridge collaborative efforts among public agencies, private and nonprofit organizations, and communities. The ability to explore and analyze spatial data, solve problems, visualize, and communicate the outcomes to scale on demand is essential in all phases of disaster management. The adoption of geospatial technologies has long been at the core of natural hazards risk assessment, linking existing technologies in GIS (geographic information systems) with spatial analytical techniques and modeling to address hazard mitigation as well as disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. Practice and research have shown that while risk reduction strategies and mobilization of disaster response resources depend on integrating governance in the process of building disaster resilience, the implementation of such strategies is best informed by accurate spatial data acquisition, fast-processing, analysis, and integration with other informational resources. In recent years, new accessible sources and types of data have greatly enhanced the ability of practitioners and researchers to develop approaches that support rapid and efficient response to disasters, including forecasting, impact analysis, and damage assessment. Recent innovations in geospatial technologies include distributed GIS web-based services that feature mapping platforms for systematizing and sharing data, maps, applications, and analytics. Distributed GIS offers enormous opportunities to strengthen collaboration and improve communication and efficiency by enabling agencies and end users to connect and interact with remotely located information products, apps, and services. Other new developments in geospatial technologies include real-time data management where live data feeds obtained from geo-sensors can be accessed through real-time big data portals to help organizations make well-timed, evidence-based decisions. The integration of GIS with IT technologies and automation using distributed computing has also become critical in asset, power outage, and transportation systems management. Embedding GIS in IT operations can secure rapid restoration of infrastructure services in the aftermath of a major disaster, improve assistance delivery, and facilitate communication, coordination, and collaboration among various stakeholders.