Mike O'Boyle

Disaster Relief Operations

Disaster relief operations require the marshalling of substantial resources and their movement to the afflicted area. It is common for such operations to be undertaken in parts of the world where local infrastructures are less well developed than at home. Frequently, the operations must be conducted in situations where the terrain and sometimes elements of the local population are extremely hostile to the aid agencies. It is not surprising, therefore, that the command and control requirements of military or civil aid agencies, are very similar to those of military forces conducting 'conventional' operations. Under the auspices of the British National Space Centre (BNSC) Applications Programme, Smith System Engineering Ltd carried out a short study to look at how GIS could be used to support aid agencies in providing assistance to disaster-struck areas. From a series of telephone interviews and more in-depth consultations with several key agencies, the study consolidated and analysed those requirements that would benefit from the use of GIS technology, particularly where this could make use of forthcoming improvements in data availability and quality.

The striking degree of similarity between different types of agency, operating under different circumstances, illustrates the enormous potential for the application of GIS to this important area. The rapid capture and import of geographic data is vital if GIS is to be used to support a crisis situation. This paper gives a summary of some recent work carried out for the British National Space Centre (BNSC) Applications Programme.

Mike O'Boyle
Smith System Engineering Limited
Surrey Research Park