Leveraging Information Systems for Disaster Management
In today's digital age, natural as well as man-made disaster management has become an easier task. Several IT features are at our disposal, which can help in both prevention and recovery from disaster. Information technology advances such as satellite communication, the Internet, remote sensing, geographic information system (GIS), etc. have proven extremely valuable in hazard reduction planning and execution processes (Vyas & Desai, 2007). IT has been employed in the fields of business disaster recovery, continuity planning, risk management, and continuous monitoring.
Generally, activities in emergency and risk management are separated into two categories: pre-event (preparation, mitigation) and 2) post-event (recovery, response). In the preparation stage, simulation and modeling exercises are crucial and can facilitate prevention, mitigation and adaptation. In the field of geographic information systems, applications in water-resource management have most effectively utilized its analytical abilities for developing simulation runs and biophysical models (like Hydraulic and Hydrological Models (HEC-RAS andMIKE11). When integrated, these systems can forecast flood behavior, by deriving inputs of different terrain, hydro-meteorological datasets, and land use or land cover; in a way, these function as SDSS (Spatial Decision Support Systems) (Zlatanovaa, Ghawanab, Kaurb & Neuvelc, 2014).
The planning stage is generally initiated with locating and identification of possible disaster sites (at-risk places). Via a GIS, threats are recognized, and evaluation of potential disasters'/emergencies' consequences is begun. Hazard-mapping (flood zones, earthquake faults, avalanche, landslide, etc.) is conducted, taking into consideration key infrastructure (residential areas, buildings, hospitals, schools, streets, storage facilities, power lines, pipelines, etc.) at risk, followed by formulation of preparedness, response, mitigation, and potential recovery requirements by relevant authorities. This process makes clear the lives, environmental values, and property at great risk from possible disaster/emergency. Public safety authorities can identify and concentrate on the places wherein mitigation will be required, places where response should be reinforced, the focus of preparedness, and required recovery efforts. GIS eases this process, through enabling planners to look at suitable spatial data combinations by means of computer-generated mapping (Stephenson and Peter, 1997).
At the response stage, the abovementioned information combined with non-spatial and spatial infrastructural information may be utilized for improving response efficiency. Response units' route optimization on the basis of real-time information of disaster-affected regions can be resource- and time-efficient while responding. The disaster-hit territories' satellite images offer information regarding the area and extent of impact. In case of floods, Volume or Depth data from earlier-run simulations can be utilized by the agencies concerned to ascertain possible water volume/depth in flood regions, as well as the likelihood of other regions getting impacted because of the water reaching those regions (Zlatanovaa et al., 2014).
ii. Continuous monitoring
In the last 10 years, nations and regions have significantly advanced in EWS (Early Warning Systems) development and implementation. A major part of this improvement is because of better information and communication technology (ICT), improved monitoring and observational systems, and greater public awareness with regard to emergency risk reduction's importance. An example that demonstrates the value of extending EWS coverage is that of Bangladesh, which has, currently, a two-day cyclone warning system at hand for enabling individuals to evacuate from homes and withdraw to storm shelters many hours prior to cyclones making landfall, thereby appreciably decreasing death toll. Three-hundred thousand people lost their lives to the Cyclone Bhola in 1970, in comparison to 3,000 deaths by Cyclone Sidrin 2007; both events were reported by authorities to be of similar magnitudes. Even where risks that have greater complexity and longer development times (e.g., droughts), EWS helps with keeping death toll low, across regions like Africa's Sub-Sahara (Carabine & Jones, 2015). There are EWS technology examples that include weather forecasting -- A large number of nations today have in place, early warning techniques that utilize weather forecasts, giving important details days, weeks, even months ahead and communicating warnings to related local stakeholders. The systems are grounded on high-tech weather models; they are particularly helpful in preparation for extreme climate.
With rapid, worldwide spread...
One example where SMS has been integrated into disaster warning systems is Japan - on detecting early earthquake signs, Japanese agencies disseminate SMS warnings to every single registered cell phone user in the nation. Crowd-sourced data also finds increasing use, with greater number of people having access to the internet and ICTs (like, mobile phones). The technique was employed on a large scale while responding to an earthquake in Haiti in 2010, enabling mapping specialists, locals, and other relevant stakeholders to transmit information on what they heard or viewed at the disaster site and generate information helpful to humanitarian workers (Carabine & Jones, 2015).
Personal multimedia recorders and surveillance methods can offer a much richer, more applicable data source for disaster scientists, compared to large-scale sensors. The former means offer the proximal account, with no errors seeping in with alteration and fading of witnesses' memories with time. Moreover, the data procured from them may apply more to the context of social research, rather than to records of physical phenomena's quantitative sensor information. Surveillance cameras had an important part to play in the deconstruction of numerous 9/11 events, including evacuation timeline and the World Trade Center's structural failures. Following the great tsunami in the Indian Ocean in December 2004, University of Buffalo teams could quickly capture and attain perishable data regarding lifeline and building damage characteristics via a compact surveying mechanism, integrating GPS (global positioning satellite), personal videography and satellite photograph recording. Informal disaster recordings form a highly important alternate information source on disasters (Moss & Townsend, 2006).
iii. Business continuity planning
Businesses invest a great deal of monetary, physical, time and human resources towards ensuring success of their ventures, still, a large number of company owners fail when it comes to adequately planning and preparing for disasters. The Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) reports that, approximately 25% of businesses are unable to restart operations after any major catastrophe. Organizational owners can defend and maintain their business, if they effectively identify risks linked to disasters, natural as well as man-made, and develop an action plan to put into operation if a disaster occurs; regularly updating these plans will ensure business survival (Stephenson and Peter, 1997; Kaviani & Rajabifard, 2014).
State-of-the-art surveillance and sensing technologies may provide a means to escape this quandary. In disasters that have occurred of late, the new-found ability of reconstructing exhaustive maps and timelines of the calamity has increased through an explosion in development of surveillance and sensing equipment in natural and constructed environments. Digital networks of communication leave traces of the Internet, cell phones, and other such societal "nervous systems," within and near disaster areas (Kaviani & Rajabifard, 2014).
The first step in protection of a company is, knowing how disasters can be identified. Disasters come in various forms --ranging from environmental (natural) disasters, like fires and floods, to technological cataclysms capable of wiping out whole computer systems. Every sort of disaster isn't relevant to a company -- it is imperative that company owners recognize which kinds of disasters have the ability to hinder/stop company operations. After establishing this, development of EWS for detecting potential threats is the next key stage. EWS can include weather-change-monitoring software devices or constant evaluation methods (Kaviani & Rajabifard, 2014; Zlatanovaa et al., 2014).
iv. Business disaster recovery
Proper communication between affected individuals/groups, emergency operations facilities, frontline responders and broadcasting systems, is crucial in the wake of an emergency. The communication link proves essential for the purpose of: evaluating needs and destruction; gathering data resources such as supplies; coordinating relief/rescue efforts; encouraging response from institutions, political agencies and the public; and accounting for those who are missing. Strong communication infrastructure is required in regions that are disaster-prone. After the January 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, communication infrastructure in the affected regions was severely damaged. A competent communications unit, however, swiftly evaluated the community's communication requirements and restored elementary communication infrastructure before long (Yodmani & Hollister, 2001).
Disaster recovery in case of businesses hinges on their Business Recovery strategies -- documents employed by organizations as guides for maintaining order if hit by a disaster, ensuring employee safety, and facilitating business continuity after the disaster, for minimizing corporate holdups, as per the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency. The above strategies reflect what must be done by a firm to remain afloat, the resources and tools that must be procured or available, and allocation of responsibilities among different persons in the organization. The effectiveness of this plan is dependent on the level of preparation of the team, the level of orderliness maintained in the team, and amount of coordination among team members (Zlatanovaa et al., 2014).
v. The benefits, new advances, and future trend of technologies in disaster management
Disaster management technologies have improved emergency preparedness efforts; response activities can help…
The disaster management plan will minimize the potentialities of the disaster in the areas as follows: (1) Minimizing potential economic loss; (2) Decreasing potential exposures; (3) Reducing the probability of occurrence; (4) Reduction of disruptions to operations; (5) providing an orderly recovery; (6) minimizing insurance premiums; (7) reduction of reliance on certain key individuals; (8) protecting organizational assets; (9) ensuring the safety of personnel and customer; (10) Reducing disruptions
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