Faculty of Geodesy & Geomatics Engineering, K.N.Toosi University of Technology, Tehran, Iran
Department of Geomatics, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Mohammad Javad Valadan Zoej
Faculty of Geodesy & Geomatics Engineering, K.N.Toosi University of Technology, Tehran, Iran
Disaster is defined as a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society causing widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses which exceed the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources. In order to reduce the undesirable impacts of disasters, there are world wide trends on managing disasters. Disaster management is a cycle of activities beginning with mitigating the vulnerability and negative impacts of disasters; preparedness for responding operations; responding and providing relief in emergency situations such as search and rescue, fire fighting, etc.; and aiding in recovery which can includes physical reconstruction and the ability to return quality of life to a community after a disaster.
Information is fundamental requirement for disaster management. Considering that most of the information required for disaster management has spatial component or location (Cutter et. al 2003), GIS with the capability of spatial data display, analysis and management has proven crucial in detecting, mitigating, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters (Amdahel 2002). However, current studies show that although spatial data and GIS can facilitate disaster management, there are substantial problems with collection, access, dissemination and usage of required spatial data for disaster management (SNDR 2002 and Jain and McLean 2003). Such problems become more serious during disaster response phase with its dynamic and time-sensitive nature.
Disaster response is dynamic and decision-makers need to be updated on the latest emergency situation. Disaster response is also time-sensitive with little allowance on delay in decision-making and response operations. Therefore, any problem or delay in data collection, access, usage and dissemination has negative impacts on the quality of decision-making and hence the quality of disaster response. With this in mind, it is necessary to utilize appropriate frameworks and technologies to resolve current spatial data problems for disaster management.
It is suggested that Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) as an initiative in spatial data management can be an appropriate framework and a web-based system can be an appropriate tool for resolving current problems with spatial data. With the other word, web-based GIS and SDI as an integrated framework can facilitate and improve disaster management, particularly disaster response, by resolving current problems with collection, dissemination, access and integration of spatial data for use.
This paper aims to describe the development of an SDI conceptual model and a prototype web-based system that facilitate spatial data collection, access, dissemination, and usage for proper disaster management. This is based on an ongoing research and case study in Iran which investigates the role of SDI in disaster management with emphasize on the response phase.
2 Disaster Management Community: Collaboration in Data Management
Different organizations (such as Fire, Medical and police departments; Red Cross Society; and Utility Companies) collaborate in disaster management activities due to diversity of disaster response operations. Inter-organizational coordination of disaster response operations and controlling the emergency situation is generally conducted through Emergency Operation Center (EOC) where the representatives of involved organizations are gathered.
Considering search, relief, rescue, firefighting, medical service, debate removal, sheltering, and repairing utility network as some examples of disaster response activities, a large number of spatial data layers are required for planning and coordinating such operations. Road network, closed road, hospital, disaster area, damaged building, location of victims, location of emergency workers, available resources, and utility network are some examples of required spatial data layers for disaster response operations.
Due to dynamic nature of emergency situation, required data for disaster response should be collected regularly in order to be available for decision-makers. However, due to variety of required data, individual involved organizations in disaster management activities can not handle exclusively the collection and maintenance of all required data layers for disaster response. As a result, collection and maintenance of required spatial data layers for disaster response should be conducted based on collaborative effort of different organizations for spatial data collection and updating. If so, required spatial data layers are always available and accessible for producer. The required datasets should also be accessible for decision-makers (involved organizations and EOC) to be utilized for planning and decision-making purposes. This is achieved if collected data by each of the participants in data collection to be shared to wider disaster management community (Mansourian et al 2004 and Rajabifard et al 2004).
One of the challenges of this collaborative effort in data collection and sharing (Figure 5.5) is to choose the collaborator organizations. In this respect, Mansourian et al. (2004) highlighted that considering their daily and disaster response businesses, involved organizations in disaster management community are potentially the main producers and maintainers of required spatial data for disaster response, based on and during their normal or disaster response activities. If such potential is turned into act and the results of data production and updating efforts are physically recorded in appropriate databases, the required spatial data for disaster response is always available to the producer. As described earlier, by sharing available data, they will be accessible to other organizations.
In addition, the required datasets need to be easily integratable with each other and interoperable with decision-makers’ systems for real-time use. This is achieved by utilization of common and appropriate standards and specifications for data collection and sharing in the mentioned collaborative effort.
Although a collaborative effort for spatial data collection and sharing can resolve the problem with collection, access and dissemination of required spatial data for disaster response, however, different researches on collaborative efforts for data collection and sharing (Rajabifard and Williamson 2003; McDougall et al. 2002; Nedovic-Budic and Pinto 1999) show that there are different technical, institutional, political, and social issues that create barriers for such participation to occur. With this in mind, by creating an environment in which such issues are taken into consideration and resolved and consequently the access of decision-makers to spatial data is facilitated, the concept of partnership in data production and sharing can become a reality. In this respect, Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI), as an initiative in spatial data management with related concepts and models, can be used as a framework for creating such an environment and consequently, facilitating disaster response.
3 Role of Spatial Data Infrastructure in Disaster Management
Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) is an initiative intended to create an environment that will enable a wide variety of users to access, retrieve and disseminate spatial data in an easy and secure way. In principle, SDIs allow the sharing of data, which is extremely useful, as it enables users to save resources, time and effort when trying to acquire new datasets by avoiding duplication of expenses associated with generation and maintenance of data and their integration with other datasets. SDI is also an integrated, multi-leveled hierarchy of interconnected SDIs based on collaboration and partnerships among different stakeholders. With this in mind, many countries are developing SDIs to better manage and utilize their spatial data assets. As a result of these activities different models have been suggested for facilitating SDI development.
Recent studies on SDI initiatives (Rajabifard and Williamson 2003) have highlighted that development of SDIs is a matter of different challenges such as social, cultural, political and economical challenges beside technical issues.
With respect to core components, an SDI encompasses the policies, access networks and data handling facilities (based on the available technologies), standards, and human resources necessary for the effective collection, management, access, delivery and utilization of spatial data for a specific jurisdiction or community (Rajabifard et al 2002). Based on these components, Figure 1 illustrates a basic SDI model. According to this model, appropriate accessing network, policies and standards (which are known as technological components) are required for facilitating the relation between people (data providers, value-adders and decision-makers in disaster management community) and data.
By clarifying each of these core components, an SDI conceptual model can be developed which can contribute to facilitating the availability, access and usage of spatial data for disaster management and hence facilitation of disaster management.
Fig. 1. SDI Components (Rajabifard et. al 2002)
Considering Geographical Information System (GIS) as underpinning technology for SDI and its role in facilitating data collection and storage as well as facilitating decision-making based on spatial data processing and analysis, GIS is a good tool for improving decision-making for disaster management. In this respect, a web-based GIS can be a good tool for facilitating disaster management due to need to high interaction between decision-makers in disaster management community, particularly during disaster response.
With this in mind, a web-based GIS using SDI can facilitate disaster management by providing a better way of spatial data collection, access, management and usage.
4 SDI Conceptual Modeling and Development of Web-Based System for Disaster Management – A Case Study
With respect to above description, a research study has been designed and conducted in Iran with the aim of development of an SDI conceptual model and a prototype web-based system for disaster response. Main steps of this research included:
- Assessing disaster management community from different technical and non-technical perspectives with respect to spatial data,
- Development of an SDI conceptual model, based on the results of the assessment,
- Development of a web-based GIS based on the SDI conceptual model,
- Conduction of a pilot project to test the developed SDI conceptual model and prototype web-based GIS, and
- Refinement of the SDI conceptual model and the developed prototype web-based system.
At the first stage disaster management community was assessed with respect to spatial data and those technical and non-technical factors that affect development of SDI. The Basic Organizational Behavior Model was used as a framework for conduction of this assessment due to complexity of disaster management community. This model breaks an organization/community to different hierarchical levels (individual, group and organizational levels) and introduces different elements that affect behavior of each level. Figure 2 shows the basic organizational behavior model and the elements that were used for assessment at each level.
Fig. 2. The basic organizational behavior model and selected variables at each level for assessment
Results of organizational assessment showed that development of SDI for disaster management in Iran is a matter of social, technical and technological, political, institutional and economical challenges. Based on the results of organizational assessment, at the second step, the SDI conceptual model was developed by examining and expanding each of the components of SDI within the context of disaster response. This model is a framework that can create an appropriate environment for participation of organizations in collection, sharing and usage of spatial data for disaster management.
At the third step, a prototype web-based system using GIS engine with a user-friendly interface was also developed as a tool for spatial data collection, sharing and analysis. Figure 3 shows the overall structure of this system. As Figure 3 shows the web-based system is based on five core components including user interface for clients to access and analyze data, web server and application server for getting the clients’ request and sending it to map server, map server for data analysis and query based on clients’ request, data server for retrieving data from a database and serving them to map server for analysis, and database that includes spatial data.
Fig. 3. Core components of web-based System and their relations
At the fourth step, a pilot project was conducted. This pilot was conducted in Tehran, the capital of Iran with collaboration of different organizations from disaster management community in order to test the web-based system and developed SDI conceptual model. Considering the important role of awareness for SDI development, increasing the awareness of disaster management community on advantages of developed system that works using SDI, was another aim of this pilot project. This pilot project was about responding to an assumed earthquake in Tehran.
In this pilot, a maneuver scenario was defined with which involved organizations could experience a coordinated disaster response based on spatial data sharing and analysis. During the maneuver, each organization updated its own spatial datasets within responding operations, and shared them with the disaster response community. Therefore each individual responding organization had access to required spatial datasets to integrate and analyze their datasets using GIS functionalities to support their own decision-making for disaster response.
At the last step, based on the results of the pilot project, the developed prototype web-based system and the developed SDI conceptual model were refined. Figure 4 shows the schematic presentation of the developed SDI conceptual model for disaster response.
Fig. 4. Schematic presentation of the developed SDI conceptual model for disaster response
The results of the pilot project also showed that a web-based GIS using an SDI framework:
- Facilitates and improves decision-making process,
- Facilitates and improves coordination of activities, and
- Reduces the response time span to at least 40% of the currents situation
The results of the case study and its pilot project showed how useful a web-based system that works using SDI can be for effective and efficient disaster response management. Using SDI framework, reliable and up-to-date spatial data for disaster response is always available and accessible for decision-makers. A web-based system is also an appropriate tool which can be used for data sharing and data analysis and consequently coordinating and controlling emergency situation.
The effectiveness and efficiency of the system can be interpreted by different elements, however, in this research facilitating decision-making process, facilitating coordination of activities and reducing the response time duration were chosen as three evaluating factors.
It should be noted that such SDI conceptual model and web-based system facilitates and improves not only disaster response, but also other phases of disaster management including mitigation, preparedness and recovery.
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