There has been a steady increase in recorded disasters like landslides, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic activity occurring in recent years, with widespread impact on human settlements and livelihoods. The loss of lives and damage can however be minimized with the level of preparedness and response. Studies suggest that those communities that are not appropriately resourced and organized to withstand the impact of natural disasters are more vulnerable and prone to loss of lives and economy. Leveraging satellite technology and EO (Earth Observation) with high-resolution spatial and spectral images is crucial in reducing humanitarian impact and loss of life.
The Role of Satellite Imagery in Disaster Management Cycle
During the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011, with the help of consistent and accurate satellite data including high-resolution spatial and spectral imagery, relief workers were able to determine where the Tsunami had inundated, figure out its flow paths, and assess the damage caused. This paved the way for the increased use of satellite imagery for disaster management.
With high-resolution real-time images of the earth’s surface that satellites offer, rescue teams working on ground can act more decisively to prevent further loss of lives and property and assess where relief is most needed. Satellite imagery can help capture consistent data of differing spatial and spectral resolutions of large difficult terrains which otherwise cannot be accessed in the event of disaster.
Sometimes during natural disasters like flooding and earthquakes, ground infrastructure like roads and bridges can be damaged and traditional maps can no longer be relied upon. Here, the combination of optical and radar satellites can be perfectly adapted to map in detail the infrastructure damage, penetrate cloud cover, and operate at night. This satellite imagery can then be translated into damage and situation maps which can be used to help in the relief operations.
Satellite imagery can effectively be used to manage the full disaster life cycle from pre-disaster- response- to post-disaster. Early detection of natural hazards and identification of population concentrations to help evacuation and post-disaster reconstruction efforts can be augmented with the help of on-demand, direct, swift, reliable, and cost-effective satellite imagery.
Remote Sensing and GIS in Disaster Risk Mitigation
Remote sensing satellite image data and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can give disaster response teams a wealth of information to monitor, assess, and analyze the scale of damage in the event of a natural disaster.
Satellite, aerial, or UAV remote sensing has widespread applications in disaster management including
- Disaster Recovery
- Emergency Management
- Search & Recovery
- Tracking weather patterns
- Flood Assessment
- Draught Predictions
- Hazard Zones
- Emergency and risk mapping
GIS involves the collection, analysis, and interpretation of spatial data which can be used to monitor and map vulnerable areas at risk of disasters. It can be used to create detailed maps and visualizations of disaster areas, plan evacuation routes, and develop recovery plans. Real-time monitoring and early detection can help promote a more coordinated response and reduce damage.
Satellite imagery has proved crucial to the management of disasters assisting in preparedness, response, and recovery efforts. When ground data is limited or inaccessible due to natural disasters like earthquakes or landslides, rescue workers rely on satellite imagery which offers accurate and reliable spatial information enabling effective prevention, preparedness, response, and reconstruction efforts.