Ali Mansourian and Mohammad Taleai
Faculty of Geodesy and Geomatics Engineering
K. N. Toosi University of Technology, Vali-e-asr St.
Mirdamad Cross, Tehran, Iran
P.C. 1996715433. Fax:+982188786213, Tel:+982188786212
The most important role of information and information exchange for disaster management has made developing Disaster Information Networks (DINs) around the world. DINs at different jurisdictional levels (national, regional and global) are considered as a good means for exchanging information and practices among disaster management community. Using this network, disaster managers can access required information at any time and in any location they are.
While more than 80% of the information required for disaster management has spatial component or location, an investigation on different DINs, around the world, highlights these networks have paid less attention on proper spatial information sharing and exchange. In other words, current DINs have usually a role of exchanging general information (such as experiences of different countries on disaster management activities, statistical information on previous disasters and announcement on disaster related workshops and conferences) and they do not satisfy users with proper spatial information required for a better disaster management. This paper intends to investigate different problems which may make such situation. It then addresses the role of Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) as a framework which can improve current DINs by facilitating spatial data exchange and sharing through these networks.
Disaster Information Network (DIN) is defined as a robust, integrated and virtual network for cooperative exchange of timely, relevant data and information that can be used during all phases of disaster management to save lives and reduce economic loss. DINs are proposed as a means for information sharing among involved parties in disaster management. They are developed in order for responding to disaster managers’ information requirements, since information and information sharing have proven essential for better planning and decision-making during different phases of disaster management.
Currently, there are different DINs at different jurisdictional levels: National DINs such as US-DIN and AusDIN in USA and Australia respectively, Regional DINs such as CARDIN, PDC and ADRC in Caribbean, Pacific and Asia regions respectively, and Global DIN (GDIN) at the global level.
An investigation on different DINs showed that most of the existing DINs of different levels have the following characteristics (Sadrikia & Mansourian, 2007a; Sadrikia & Mansourian, 2007b):
- They give information on the past disasters and the statistical information of their destructive impacts. They also provide experiences on disaster management
- They have advanced textual search capabilities on disasters
- Some of them provide warnings for the probable disasters and hazards, and
- They also provide links to organizations involved in disaster management.
They announce conferences and workshops on disaster management
Spatial information has proven crucial for disaster management, since most of the information required for disaster management has spatial component or location (Budic & Pinto, 1999; cutter et al, 2003). However, with such a role, the results of the mentioned investigation highlight that currents DINs have paid less attention to spatial data and their practical usage for disaster management.
Spatial Data for DINs
Due to the dynamic and time-sensitive nature of disasters, managers need reliable and up-to-date spatial information describing emergency situation, in order for better disaster management. Therefore, DINs must provide users with such up-to-date information. The spatial information should also be provided with proper format and standards as well as in proper environment, in order to be applicable in users’ GISs for integration and analysis purposes. However, current DINs do not satisfy such specifications. For example, some of the DINs include just static cartographic maps with raster formats (e.g. JPG and GIF) which is not really applicable in GIS environment for spatial analysis purposes for planning and managing disasters. Some others do not offer data in a proper scale (small scale maps). Already, all of them do not have a proper mechanism for spatial data updating and sharing, particularly for disaster response. Lack of attention to required datasets for disaster management and planning for providing and sharing them through DINs can be named as other issues.
Lack of awareness of the organization that is in charge of maintenance of a DIN about the important role of spatial data for disaster management as well as proper standards and formats in which the data need disseminated to be applicable for users, can be named as one of the important weakness of current DINs with respect to spatial data. Furthermore, financial requirements for creation and maintenance of a comprehensive disaster-related spatial database as well as proper dissemination of these data are another challenge. In addition, the organization that is in charge of a DIN, cannot stands for providing and updating spatial information of the network by itself. In most cases, the organization does not have access to such data for disseminating in DIN. So a collaboration effort among different parties that can potentially produce a DIN’s data should be established to provide DIN with proper spatial data. Identifying the stockholders, identifying core datasets for DIN, developing proper data standards for DIN, culturing for collaboration and data sharing, resolving financial and security issues, etc. are different factors that should be refined, considered and solved to create a proper environment for such a collaborative effort. It is suggested that Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) can provide such a collaborative environment to facilitate providing proper spatial information for DINs.
SDI for DINs
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 with respect to the DINs’ requirements, an SDI conceptual model can be developed which can contribute to facilitating the availability, access and usage of spatial data for disaster management (Mansourian et al, 2006) and hence empowering DINs with proper spatial data for better disaster management.
Fig.1 SDI Component (Rajabifard et.a1 2002)
Considering the important role of spatial data for disaster management, DINs should provide users with such data. However, current DINs are already weak with respect to dissemination of proper spatial data in proper standards and formats. This paper highlighted that through a collaboration effort among different stakeholders for spatial data production and sharing such issue can be resolved. Considering the SDI concepts and models, it can be an appropriate framework for providing DINs’ required spatial data and hence increasing their efficiency and usability which leads to improving current DINs. Organizations in charge of developing and maintaining DINs are recommended to use SDI concepts and models for improving current DINs with respect to spatial data.
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