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College of Arts & Sciences
Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute

Geospatial Technology in State Emergency Management Agencies

Jitka Kotelenska

Advisor:  Dr. Michael E. Hodgson



Both Geographic Information Systems (GISs) and remote sensing techniques have provided significant support in hazard-related applications. However, it remains unclear whether these geospatial technologies have been routinely integrated into state-level hazard management practices. A nation-wide survey of 52 state Emergency Management Agencies (EMAs) in the U.S. was conducted to obtain a better understanding of the current spatial data needs and the use of geospatial technology in disaster management.

The purpose of the thesis was to investigate:

  1. what spatial data do the agencies need and when,
  2. how do they use geospatial technology and what are their limitations,
  3. what is the agency organizational and coordination structure.

Relationship between EMAs’ hazard experience and their geospatial technology use was also examined.

Limited access to appropriate spatial data and the cost of such data are major barriers for the use of geospatial technologies in order to meet EMAs’ demand for information in crises management. Overall, the findings confirmed that short spatial data delivery is critical in emergency management. Disaster impact data are needed primarily within 24 hours (and no later than within 3 days). In addition, existing geospatial expertise and guidance within EMAs also deserves improvement. There also exists a lack of standard operating procedures for geospatial methods and both intra- and inter-agency spatial data management among the agencies. Lastly, the study found only a weak relationship between increasing environmental risks (measured in dollar damages) or EMAs’ hazard experience and the geospatial technology use (measured as number of spatial analysts trained in both GIS and remote sensing) within these agencies (Spearman's Rho of 0! .530, p = 0.01). This relationship further weakened after removing four outliers in the dataset.

The study contributes to the research on GIS and remote sensing adoption as well as hazard and disaster management. It also offers EMAs’ information/data/technology needs and requirements as well as suggestions for improvement. The findings add to the framework for further integration of GIS and remote sensing technologies and information into the hazard management practices by bridging the geospatial and emergency management communities.