Bouncing Back from Disaster: Emergency Response and Resiliency

04-23-2014 07:58 AM
New Contributor II
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Communities are facing increasingly complex disasters. The world’s population continues to migrate into disaster prone areas, and our changing climate further escalates disaster risk. Stronger storms, more frequent events, and sea level rise are only a few of the risks that cities must plan for if they are to protect citizens and mitigate potential impacts. Reducing disaster risk is key to boosting community resiliency and protecting citizens exposed to these factors.

For these communities, the most important apps are ones that help them understand the hazards they face and their potential impact on critical infrastructure and the local population. GIS plays a unique role in in risk reduction. It allows a community to map out multiple hazards, see how they interact with each other, and understand how they compound risk. As communities begin to understand their vulnerabilities to these hazards, they can use GIS to better understand the community’s demographic profile in at-risk areas. For example, what is the predominant language in an area vulnerable to flooding? What are the demographic characteristics of the people likely to be affected by a wildfire? This information empowers communities to geo-target their preparedness efforts and develop more effective response plans and programs that are tailored to the individual.

But, these apps and the information they deliver aren't important for just elected officials and emergency personnel. Citizens should have access to them, too. Mobile apps that help citizens learn about their exposure to hazards, and how they can prepare can dramatically raise a community’s preparedness. Crowdsourcing apps that allow citizens to share how they’re individually mitigating risk also help community leaders. This two-way information sharing answers questions like, “Has a home been retrofitted for earthquakes?” or “Has a neighborhood built defensible space for wildfire protection?” Encouraging citizens to communicate their risk reduction efforts back into the city increases awareness and promotes a resilient community.

We all play a critical role in helping our communities become more resilient. By building apps focused on climate resiliency for both professionals and citizens alike, you’re bringing them together to jointly build a more resilient community. Your work can help save lives and property, and help us all target our efforts in locations where it’s needed most.

About the Author
Director of Public Safety Solutions & Disaster Response @ Esri