Home Natural Hazard Management DigitalGlobe satellite imagery helps governments prepare for fires, floods and other disasters

DigitalGlobe satellite imagery helps governments prepare for fires, floods and other disasters

DigitalGlobe(QuickBird) satellite imagery is useful for a number of emergency planning and preparation applications. From mapping fire, flood or earthquake damage to preparing residents with evacuation routes and equipping emergency response personnel with better navigation, these high-resolution space photos provide a valuable visual tool. The City of Prescott, Ariz., a target for major wildfires that spread throughout the Western U.S. last summer, uses DigitalGlobe’s imagery for fire management.

The city has used the images to map fire damage and is now using them to prepare residents with evacuation maps, prepare firefighters with maps of vegetation and urban areas, and even predict the path of the next fire. Equipped with thorough maps, firefighters will have a visual tool to help navigate around terrain during the height of the next fire season.

The City of Prescott’s geographic information systems (GIS) department selected DigitalGlobe’s satellite imagery in early June 2002, after wildfires had damaged approximately 1,300 acres of federal forest lands and 30 acres of private lands in mid-May. According to GIS Coordinator Dale Anderson, the imagery was selected for its extremely high resolution and accuracy.

“We selected DigitalGlobe’s QuickBird images because they offered a current view of the charred landscape. They also provided the detail and accuracy needed to thoroughly map and visualize the area’s terrain and road networks,” said Anderson.

As a post-fire analysis tool, the City of Prescott used QuickBird images to evaluate burn patterns, estimate the fire’s speed based on wind conditions, and determine possible ignition points. Because the 60-centimeter resolution of these images allows one to see detail down to the house-level, they illustrate the precise damage to structures.

Looking forward, the satellite image maps will help prepare the city and its residents for the next fire. Images detailing vegetation conditions, road networks and population centers help city agencies and relief organizations understand the area’s rapidly changing conditions. Information about vegetation health and drought stress allow the city to determine which areas
are most prone to fire danger, and thus predict the likely path of a fire and develop strategies for containing it. The city can prepare high-risk residents by warning them about fire dangers and supplying them with maps showing evacuation routes.

Other DigitalGlobe’s satellite images have shown:

  • Volcano eruptions in Mt. Etna, Italy
  • Glacier flow from a collapsed glacier in Koban Valley, Russian Republic of North Ossetia
  • Fire damage in Glenwood Springs, Colo.
  • Flood damage in Dresden, Germany and Prague, Czech Republic
  • Clean-up progress at Ground Zero in Manhattan