Home Articles Use of GIS related technologies for managing disasters in India: an overview

Use of GIS related technologies for managing disasters in India: an overview

Dr. Vinod K. Sharma
Professor Environment & Natural Disaster Management
National Center for Disaster Management
Indian Institute of Public Administration
New Delhi

Search and Rescue (SAR)
Search, rescue and evacuation processes are carried out immediately after the disaster has struck a certain area or zone. These are the most important operations which are usually performed by the local volunteers, voluntary organisations and the district and state agencies. If the condition worsens and these groups are not able to control the situation, then the army has to be called in.

The basic aim of all such operations is to ensure the survival of the maximum possible number of victims. A plan is worked out with the help o local people and through aerial surveys and then appropriate steps are taken by the various teams involved, to carry out the operations. Besides bringing about material relief, the aim is also to control panic and confusion, and to provide moral support.

Importance of Significance of SAR
Search and rescue, often known by the acronym SAR, is the process of identifying the location of disaster victims who may be trapped or isolated, and bringing them to safety and providing them with medical attention.

Search and rescue generally involves the local people who are well versed with the local terrain and can be instrumental is searching and accessing the trapped vtims. SAR teams also depend on sniffer dogs and heavy machines such as cranes and earthmovers etc., to search out and extricate the victims from difficult situations such as collapsed buildings.

In case of floods and cyclones, boats and helicopters are used to carry out the search and rescue operations by forming different teams and carrying out SAR operations in the entire area systematically, each team covering its assigned sectors.

After the search, rescue and evacuation, some important steps are required to be taken in order to provide relief to the evacuees.

Prime amongst these are:

  • Shelter
  • Food
  • Communications
  • Clearance and access
  • Water and power supplies
  • Temporary subsistence supplies
  • Health and sanitation
  • Public information
  • Security
  • Construction requirements

Methods and Techniques
Traditionally, due to lack of technology and scientific approach, it was difficult to carry out the search, rescue and evacuation operations. The only possible way for the teams was to work with the help of local people who volunteered themselves during such operations. The teams used to move around in vehicles/boats/helicopters to search out people and rescue them.

In the present context, due to scientific advances it has become easier to carry out these operations efficiently. Studies have helped in making it possible to forecast and simulate disaster occurrences with specific locations – helping in the initial stages of search and rescue operations. There are techniques available, like remote sensing through satellite imagery and GIS, which help to identify areas that are disaster prone, zoning them according to risk magnitudes, inventory populations and assets at risk, and simulating damage scenarios. These tools are useful even in managing disasters as they provide instant access to information required for management decisions. Modern communication systems have also proved very useful, particularly in search and rescue operations. They not only help in providing waring before the disaster, but also help in creating awareness which helps in reducing panic, confucion and mental stress. A communication netowkr system helps in establishing contacts between relief teams, which with better centrral coordination can work more efficiently and be more effective. It is for this reason that various control rooms are established to manage the disasters, and in case of cases such as floods and cyclones, which can be predicated in advance, such control rooms also set up in advance.

Conclusions
The scale and intensity of natural disasters in the country makes it imperative that a comprehensive approach may be adopted in managing them at the country wide level. One of the first steps in this direction would be to establish a common and uniform database at the national level. Needless to mention, the common database should be made available to all concerned agencies in the government as welll as the non goernment sector. Among the availabel technologies, GIS presents itself as the most useful tool in making it possible. Indeed the scope of GIS is much beyond Disaster Mapping and SAR. Bringing in GIS applications in mainstream Disaster Management process should therefore be accorded top priority.

Reference:

  1. Natural Disaster Reduction, South Asian Regional Report (Proceedings of the SAARC Workshop on natural Disaster Reduction), March,1994
  2. Cyclone Contingency Plan of Action, Revenue Department, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad,1987.
  3. Carter, W. N. (1992) Disaster Management: A Disaster Manager’s Handbook Asian Development Bank Manila
  4. Institute of Civil Engineers for Overseas Development Authority: (1995) Megacities: reducing vulnerability to natural disasters. Thomas Telford London.