In the event of a disaster, emergency responders play an important role in managing the situation and minimizing casualties. In the case of a fire, for example, fire fighters rush to the scene to help victims out of the building and to put out the fire.

How do emergency responders know the fastest way to get to the scene of the disaster? They use GIS technology.

How GIS is Used for Disaster Mitigation

Geographic information system, or GIS technology, can be used to gather, store, analyze and maintain geographic information. For the purpose of disaster preparation, this includes information like population data, traffic patterns, city maps and roadways, etc. When an emergency happens, GIS technology can be used to guide responders to the scene by the fastest, most efficient route.


Figure 1: GIS Disaster Management

Not only can GIS technology be used by emergency responders when an emergency actually happens, but it can also be used to plan emergency responses to help cut down response time in the future. By analyzing GIS data, emergency responders can identify faster routes and plan a more efficient response. One of the most important applications of GIS technology for this purpose is oblique imagery.

Problems with GIS for Disaster Prevention

Oblique imagery is the bird’s-eye view of an area – it is gathered from low-level flights and it consists of images taken of the city from above. If you were to fly over the city in a helicopter, that would be an example of oblique imagery. The benefit of oblique imagery for disaster mitigation is that it can be used to plan escape routes even when visibility on the ground is poor.


Figure 2: Oblique Imagery

Though oblique imagery is extremely useful for disaster planning, there are two major problems with it – the accuracy of the images is only as good as the data gathered by GIS software, and it is extremely expensive. Fortunately, both of these problems has an easy solution.

Solutions to the Problem

For the problem of data accuracy all that is required is an assessor who is charged with the task of gathering and verifying GIS data. An assessor is a government employee who evaluates real estate properties in order to assign value and to assess taxes. The information an assessor gathers to make that evaluation is incredibly valuable for GIS systems – it helps to make all of the other information gathered by the system more accurate.

The second problem with oblique imagery, its cost, is a little more difficult to deal with. One possible solution to this problem is grant money – because the information gathered by assessors can be used across a wide area, it is eligible for federal funding. It is also possible to get funding from private companies if they have uses for data as well.


GIS technology is incredibly versatile and one of the most valuable uses for it is for disaster mitigation. By working with assessors, GIS data can be made as accurate and affordable as possible for this purpose.