Natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the Indian Ocean tsunami, floods, landslides as well as manmade disasters for example the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States and the October 12, 2002 Indonesian Bali bombing often result in loss of property and lives. Proper disaster management before, during and after they have occurred is therefore of paramount importance to Government agencies as well as international organisations involved in disaster management.
An effective disaster management strategy/ cycle should comprise four main components: 1) preparedness 2) response 3) mitigation and 4) recovery. In order to prepare, respond, mitigate and/or carry out an effective recovery program after the disaster, information and awareness is essential. Over the recent years, GIS and remote sensing have become necessary tools for disaster management. Remote sensing assumes a number of functions in disaster management processes. First, satellites can detect some precursors of disasters for example floods, drought and earthquakes. As a result satellites play a role in disaster forecasting and early warning. Secondly, satellites can be of enormous benefit for monitoring the event as it occurs. Last but not least, satellites can be used to provide assessment of the effects of disaster after its occurrence. This information is necessary for the disaster recovery phase.
GIS on the other hand plays a role in all the four disaster management cycle components: During prevention phase, GIS plays a role in data capture, storage, management and analysis. In particular, GIS helps in assessing the potential disasters and hazards as well as the expected risks and vulnerability. For the case of preparedness, GIS helps in planning evacuation routes and centres for disaster operations. Also for rescue operations and hence the relief phase, GIS can be integrated with GPS to provide an interface for search operations in areas that have been devastated by the disaster. Finally, GIS can be useful for assessing the damage and also to provide post disaster census information, which is essential for recovery.