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Essay: Geographic Information System and its Application in Disaster Risk Reduction

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  • Published: 2 October 2015*
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The aim of this literature review is to provide readers the overview of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and its application and importance in Disaster Risk Reduction.
Geographic Information System is a computer application system that is tasked to store, capture, manipulate, analyze, manage, and correlate geographical or spatial data.
GIS uses data that involves location. Location can be expressed in many ways like coordinates, latitude, longitude, addresses, ZIP codes, and the like. Within the location, other data can be correlated or analyzed like population, income, weather etc.
With GIS, people can easily see and analyze patterns, relationships within an area of interest. Some application of GIS than can be seen in everyday life are the use of Google Earth and Maps, use of GPS in everyday travel, Crime mapping, public transportation, and many more. (Prakash, Arul)
Just like any other computer system, GIS needs raw data. Data can be collected as long as it involves location. The data collected are then layered as ‘themes’ comprising of different types of information. From these layers or themes, one can correlate the data and even forecast some events or correlation. The database from GIS is validated to ensure authenticity of the system. Also, the database is updated regularly to ensure accuracy of the system. (Folger, 2011)
GIS can be represented in many platforms and can be based on so called mashup technologies and software architectures. These platforms makes it possible to develop software of web-based geographic information systems with features like user registration and restricted access. (Sencheko, et. al. ,2013)
With the help of internet, PC, or handheld devices, GIS is already accessible to users and even organizations.
GIS is fascinating and overwhelming in terms of application. A person using a Google map doesn’t know that he or she is already applying GIS in his or her everyday life. Even in education, GIS is becoming a trend to enhance the education system of schools. Traffic problems are being monitored and improved using GIS.
The following are some of the typical applications of GIS:
GIS is used for Geo-referencing. This means area of interest can be analysed using grayscale mapping. Thus, one can identify certain type of areas if irrigation is possible. (Turney, 2011)
Analyzing a city’s street network and traffic congestion can aid in providing solutions to the cause of traffic and also change the traffic patterns for efficient travel. (Burckhart and Oriol, 2012)
Using GIS system, foresters can be aided by the implication of resource management plans and also tracking threats pertaining to forest resources. (Odour et. al. 2014)
Crime mapping in Nigeria has been used as a way of reducing crime rates especially in the metropolis. By the help of certain satellite imaging, they can easily track occurring crimes hence faster respondents of officials to the scene. they also pattern events from previous crimes and associated them with certain types of crime to analyze their root causes. (Balogun et. al. 2014)
Schools are taking advantage of the GIS system by incorporating it to further enhance the teaching methods and also evaluate the current performances of students. (Pang, 2006)
The focus of the article is the use of GIS in disaster risk reduction. Disaster risk reduction or DRR is a systematic approach to determine the risks of disasters such as natural hazards and ways to reduce them. One cannot completely eliminate disasters but one can reduce the threat of such.
As disaster occurs in a certain geographic location, spatial information is vital in disaster risk reduction. Information like location as well as population and climate are needed to predict or acknowledge trends that are happening to a certain location.
Areas vulnerable to earthquakes, floods, cyclones, storms, drought, fire, volcano, landslides, can be used to accurately predict future happenings of such disasters.
Agencies like UNESCO and even government are making use of GIS as application in disaster risk reductions. These institutions are also known for promoting awareness and undertake researches regarding GIS as it will deeply impact in the progress of reducing disaster risks.
According to Sutanta et. al., and the Disaster Assessment Portal, outlined below are the GIS techniques commonly used in disaster risk reduction projects:
GIS Mapping is the use of geographic information system, for risk or hazard mapping
Geospatial Analysis is analysis of risk information by distance, area, volume or any other spatial characteristics within geographic boundaries
Hazard Mapping is the process of mapping hazard information and data within a study area of varying scale and detail. Mapping can be a single or more hazards within a single map. Shimmer and Yamamoto (2014), also cited that evacuation routes can be analyzed in case of occurrence of such hazards.
Analysis of risks by integrating layers of information.
Remotes sensing refers to the process of using sensors to record information usually from satellites.
Advantage of remote sensing is its application even to extreme environments like volcanoes. It can collect data such as temperature of the area within the volcano. With this setup, safety is being considered especially to human. (Amici et. al. ,2013)
Application of GIS in disaster risk reduction can be summarized as follows:
1. Data can be presented on maps, with the variable of interest divided into classes or categories
2. Increase in productivity of hazard mapping as it is already automated
3. Can give high quality results compared to manual mapping
4. Identification of hazards not limited to local but can be expanded to regional and continental scale
GIS in disaster in risk reduction can be a powerful tool but there are some limitations and disadvantages that needed to be addressed (Prakash):
1. Great deal of data collection should be needed to produce quality results
2. Lack of trained personnel to use GIS efficiently
3. Poor data gathering can result to poor results
4. There are still difficulties in incorporating social, economic, and environmental variables
Geographic Information System in Disaster Risk Reduction whilst being beneficial today will be more likely to bloom in the future due to spontaneous technology advancements. GIS will be more accessible and consumable on the web and mobile devices which will lead to more applications especially in disaster risk reduction.
Certain points should however be considered for improvements like high resolution satellite imaging and remote sensing to have more accurate data acquisition. Training of more competent people to perform or use this system should also be established.
Development of GIS systems in mobile platforms are being assess and being further enhanced since there are still hindrances like limited platforms where we can easily access or use GIS systems. (Guo et. al. 2010)
Transformation methods are being studied further to improve further the accuracy of location and coordination points of geo spatial data and the likes. These methods also aim to eliminate errors and discrepancies as much as possible. Further researches regarding transformation method are being done. (Khalil, 2013)
Cloud computing plays significant role in various platforms like search engines, virtual machines, scientific computing, and online TV. Cloud computing is now also being integrated in GIS application as it gives innovations that will lead to provide elasticity of
the GIS system. (Naghavi,2012)
And lastly, the challenge for the system to be able to integrate as many data as possible and evaluate them accurately in a short span of time is needed to be solved. (Kemp, 2008)
GIS is indeed a powerful system now that our world has all the advancements in technology. GIS is very tool from day to day navigation, to social applications, and many others. GIS is very helpful especially in minimizing or reducing disasters risk. Efficient monitoring of areas prone to disasters is being done by obtaining accurate data and layers. Many improvements are still needed in terms of reducing disaster risk but we are already benefitting from this form of technology.

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