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Background to the four stages of emergency management: The role of enterprise GIS

F. Peirce Eichelberger


Few examples of enterprise geographic information systems (GISs) implementation are as important and illustrative as the use of GIS to support the four stages of emergency management (EM). The full range of data required to support the four stages of EM are much greater, then any one department can be responsible for by itself. Only with an enterprise-wide GIS perspective can the full range of required data elements be made available to the emergency manager. Most critically, to keep these data sets accurate and up to date, the emergency manager must rely on other agencies and functions to keep all the data current. Without other assistance, the data requirements for the EM team will be quickly overwhelming. Waugh and Hy describe emergency events as either intentional (terrorism) or unintentional (weather/earthquake). The focus of this analysis is primarily on unintentional events, yet examples show that the four stages of EM are applicable with either type of event. Enterprise GIS has not been discussed much lately, but it is absolutely critical to solving the information needs of the contemporary emergency manager. Enterprise GIS means that many of the key data sets needed to support the four stages of EM are readily available, in a consistent manner and are always up to date. An enterprise perspective also means that GIS data are compatible with surrounding areas and GIS products are consistent with local, state, and federal information needs/requirements. The “common operating picture” we hear so much about in today’s EM world. Most importantly, an enterprise GIS perspective means that all data and systems work together or can “talk” to each other. Easily sharing data by address or by parcel means that the information/knowledge content can grow quickly and ad-hoc data requirements or events can be handled quickly and reliably. GIS is no longer a system or even just an architecture—it literally is a way of thinking. It is so exciting to implement GIS capabilities only to see that they can be used in ways not originally intended or described. This is analogous to the EM problem of having data/maps collected for the last emergency and not the current one! This means that the GIS staff get involved and more fully understand the in-depth system requirements of each application/data set. By putting these requirements together, in an enterprise-wide perspective, we can begin to see how a school inventory needed for drug free zones (for the district attorney’s office) is also useful as a possible shelter/feeding/inoculation site inventory for EM. A cell tower inventory for address assignments (for E-911/CAD) may also prove useful to the assessment professionals who see income potentials in silos, flag poles and steeples, often on tax-exempt properties like churches or municipal water tanks. A gasoline station inventory from Health’s Weights and Measures is immediately applicable to EM’s requirements for a better understanding of possible gasoline rationing actions/scenarios. Another way of looking at enterprise GIS and its support of EM would be to always think about the other stages of EM as this particular data/map or application is being collected, designed, or implemented. Perhaps just including another data element or two could support other later (or earlier) stages of EM? The GIS data can provide the continuity that EM needs to handle an incident through the four stages.


enterprise GIS, four stages, GIS

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