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Volunteers assist in three phases of a disaster simulation in Samoa

The United Nations Platform for Space-Based information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-Spider) held a one day event in Geneva in mid November 2011. Running a disaster simulation in Samoa was proposed first during UN-Spider’s July event and the details of the simulation was further discussed during the November event. At that time, December 3rd, 2011 was selected as the simulation date and several participants including GISCorps expressed interest in participating and making their volunteers available to the exercise.

Subsequently, two GISCorps teams were recruited for the simulation. The first team (3 volunteers) partnered with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) and the second team (2 volunteers) was charged with running analytical processes on information collected by several other partners including the Standby Task Force (SBTF) and Humanity Road on an UShahidi platform.

Digitizing buildings in JOSM

The first team worked closely with HOT representatives; the team included Randy Hale, a GISCorps volunteer from Tennessee (he’s also a HOT member and a former DPRK volunteer), Abdo Abdelrasoul from Pennsylvania and Amit Jadhav from the UK. Randy was responsible for training the team and taught the other volunteers how to digitize roads and structures in Java OpenStreetMap Editor (JOSM) environment. At the end, hundreds of features were added to various areas in Samoa by many volunteers including those from GISCorps.

Buildings in Potlach interface

The second team comprised of Richard Parkin, a GIS specialist from Texas and Heather Milton GISCorps’ current chair and GISCorps volunteer. While Richard worked on analyzing (creating several Heat maps) from the information that was inserted into the UShahidi platform, Heather generated a document that listed necessary datasets, products, and applications used in various disasters.

Heat Maps generated from reports

Further analysis and data gathering resulted in another document that highlighted the importance of detailed datasets and their availability immediately after a disaster as well as the importance of data preparation prior to a disaster. This document also includes the names of all who participated in the simulation. Several datasets used in this document (including the storm surge model) was generated by the European Commission Joint Research Center (JRC).

Storm Surge and affected buildings

Shortly after the two first phases were completed, GISCorps was asked to provide another volunteer to conduct further GIS data development (mining, cleansing, geo-coding, and publishing) from several spreadsheets. John Van Hoesen an assistant professor from Vermont was selected for the third phase of this project. Tasks that John was charged with included creating a GIS layer (in KML/KMZ format) for all the villages and attaching various attributes to each village including population, housing, power, and water supply information. He also made a list of villages that were not located available to the requesting organization and converted all files to KML and display them in Google Earth. A complete report of his efforts are posted in here.

An example of a visualized Google Fusion Table (of villages in Samoa)

Further updates will be posted as they become available.

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