Geospatial Technology in Homeland Security

Geospatial Technology in Homeland Security

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Redlands, USA, November 05, 2007: GIS for Homeland Security, a new book from ESRI Press, chronicles the value of geographic information system (GIS) technology in a growing arsenal of technologies used to protect the nation from natural disasters, diseases, and terrorist threats.

The book by Mike Kataoka, an ESRI Press editor and former journalist, describes in non technical language how GIS works as a core technology for gathering and analyzing intelligence; protecting critical infrastructure; responding to forest fires, hurricanes, and other catastrophes; and planning for bioterrorism or disease outbreaks.

“Homeland security intelligence is more about bits and bytes than cloaks and daggers these days,” Kataoka writes. “In a homeland security context, geographic information systems answer the key questions, starting with who and what are at risk.”

GIS for Homeland Security presents 15 case studies that demonstrate how public agencies and private entities are putting GIS to work on the front lines. One informative case study shows how the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center, the state’s analysis hub for crime- and terrorism-related intelligence, uses a data fusion system powered by ESRI’s ArcGIS software and MetaCarta’s Geographic Text Search (GTS). Intelligence analysts can use geography as a filter when searching through documents including news articles, e-mails, and Web pages.

The book also profiles four GIS professionals who have put the technology “to the test under difficult, even dangerous circumstances.” Among them is Ron Langhelm of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), who has used his GIS expertise to support recovery operations after earthquakes; hurricanes; and the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.

Despite a growing commitment by government officials to use GIS for homeland security operations, the book points out significant challenges, such as some agencies’ reluctance to share data for fear of compromising their individual security. The last chapter looks ahead at initiatives meant to encourage data sharing throughout government and improve GIS programs for homeland security.

The book was written for decision makers in government who deal with planning, response, and recovery in a wide range of homeland security situations, whether terrorist attacks or forces of nature. The book is also for first responders, such as police officers, fire-fighters, and medical personnel dispatched to emergency scenes, who would benefit from the heightened situational awareness a GIS can provide.