Red Cross utilizes GIS for Hurricane relief efforts

Red Cross utilizes GIS for Hurricane relief efforts

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The Red Cross is using GIS from ESRI for relief efforts following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Computer mapping, spatial analysis, and GIS Web services have assisted the agency in providing communities and displaced people with food, clothing, shelter, and other essential services. GIS has helped support senior-level staff at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., as well as staff operating at local forward command centers, whether setting up shelters, hotel housing, emotional support programs, or providing meals. GIS is used at the Red Cross to provide information to senior executives who use maps to make better, more informed decisions.

ESRI provided on-site staff and resources from its Washington, D.C., office to quickly expand and extend the existing Red Cross GIS platform. In addition, ESRI specialists at the Redlands, California, headquarters worked closely with Red Cross personnel to develop a Shelter Locator ArcWeb Services application that provides information such as address, capacity, population, and other descriptors available to both internal Red Cross staff as well as the public.

General mapping and GIS support included maps used for preplanning and response. Personnel, equipment, supplies, and other resources were strategically placed and planned for using GIS-generated maps prior to hurricanes Katrina and Rita making landfall. This included identifying counties at risk and counties that would serve as host sites for shelters, supply centers, and other forward operating facilities. As the hurricane barreled over land, work was done on the fly using ESRI’s ArcGIS Desktop software to calculate exactly what was happening at various locations. Postevent response included damage assessments; GIS-generated hurricane wind field maps; and maps, charts, and reports depicting the number of people impacted by the hurricane including displaced people. The high volume and demand for maps and GIS analysis resulted in thousands of maps being generated and used throughout the Red Cross.