- As part of the thrust to improve the country’s emergency response system, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) in collaboration with the National Spatial Data Management Division has developed a system, that is intended to assist with disaster impact assessment.
- The system, dubbed Geo Spatial Damage Assessment Tool (Geo-DAT) is a locally developed smart phone application (app) that is designed to capture data from post disaster sites in real time.
- The disaster assessment tool boasts the capacity to assess multiple hazards such as hurricanes, fires, chemical spills and floods.
As part of the thrust to improve the country’s emergency response system, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) in collaboration with the National Spatial Data Management Division has developed a system, that is intended to assist with disaster impact assessment.
The system, dubbed Geo Spatial Damage Assessment Tool (Geo-DAT) is a locally developed smart phone application (app) that is designed to capture data from post disaster sites in real time.
The application is a web based system which utilises the Geographic Information System (GIS) crowd mapping and is available on the android platform.
The disaster assessment tool boasts the capacity to assess multiple hazards such as hurricanes, fires, chemical spills and floods.
In the first phase, use of the application will be restricted to persons trained by the ODPEM in Initial Damage Assessment, including members of the National Emergency Response Geographic Information Systems Team.
Highlighting the user friendly nature of the tool, Mitigation Programme Officer in the Mitigation Planning and Research Division of ODPEM, Karema Aikens-Mitchell, tells JIS News that the function was developed based on the principle of ease of use.
“Although the app itself is very simple, it is predicated on the training that community members receive from the ODPEM. So persons using the tool will be more (experienced) with relating the damage that they see and making the appropriate selection in the tool itself,” Mrs. Aikens-Mitchell says.
She states that this was important “because when data comes into the national emergency centre we want to make sure it is credible and that we can use it.”
In outlining the capabilities of the tool, Mrs. Aikens-Mitchell says that the app allows for seamless integration of captured data into the GIS system, which allows for a wider range of analysis to be performed.
“That will give a more detailed description of the impact of the damage, together with other features like the population affected and the type of housing that is expected to be found in those communities and from that we will be able to make more informed decisions about response priorities,” she says.
The ODPEM official reveals that the development of the application is part of a larger thrust by the agency to strengthen the country’s disaster resilience.
“The project itself was much larger. It looked at building disaster resilient rural communities and livelihoods. The Geo-DAT app is just one output from that project. It links nicely with community resilience because that is the aim,” she points out.
Mrs. Aikens Mitchell says that the tool provides a range of damage assessment options including ‘no significant damage’ to ‘destroyed’ or ‘major’ or ‘severe damage’. Response is then prioritised in order of the classification of the damage assessment.
“A community that has a large percentage of its building or housing stock affected would warrant prioritization over one with minor damage and so the tool allows for these kinds of filters to determine what the priorities are,” she says.
“Additionally, we are also able to look at the shelter capacity. So, if you have a lot of houses that are destroyed, it means that your population is displaced and (you have to figure out) where you are going to house them temporarily. That is the kind of data and analysis you can perform with data that comes in from the tool,” she adds.
For his part, Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Noel Arscott commended the ODPEM for their innovative approach to strengthening the country’s disaster resilience infrastructure.
He stated that he is optimistic that the application will greatly assist in building the country’s disaster resilience status.
“I want to applaud ODPEM and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), for the Geo-DAT application…this will help us certainly in our programme to build resilience,” he says.
Funding for the project was provided by USAID through the Washington D.C. based non profit economic development organization, Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (ACDI/VOCA).
Mission Director for the USAID, Denise Herbol says that in light of the growing risks posed by disasters, new approaches such as the Geo-DAT app are required to help countries to cope more effectively with post disaster recovery efforts.
She adds that the tool provides the opportunity for community members to be more actively engaged in community recovery efforts.
“Community members trained by ODPEM to conduct initial damage assessment and who are equipped with a smart phone can easily upload geo reference photographs and damage impact descriptions and thereby become part of the national disaster management network,” she notes.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Aikens-Mitchell says that the tool provides an excellent platform that can be diversified and adapted across a variety of Government Ministries and sectors to meet their unique needs.
“We can roll it out to other sectors. We can develop hybrids… We want it to be tailored and applied to the uniqueness of each sector… it will provide a base on which those ideas can be developed,” she points out.
The ODPEM representative says that the Geo-DAT application has been rigorously tested and is ready for use to respond to future disaster events.