Satellite-Based Crisis Information and Risk Assessment: Contributions Following the Earthquake in W. Sumatra and the Mentawai Tsunami

Satellite imagery may serve as a source of information in all phases throughout the disaster cycle. In the preparedness phase, risk assessment is an important tool to support disaster management and spatial planning activities in order to minimize potential future impacts. Here, remote sensing can provide important information to perform risk and vulnerability assessments, such as land use information or inventories of exposed elements and facilities. During an acute disaster crisis like an earthquake or tsunami, while the situation in the disaster area may be still chaotic and unclear, rapid mapping activities using up-to-date satellite data can provide valuable information to support emergency response actions.

The Center for Satellite Based Crises Information (ZKI), a service of the German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), provides rapid processing and analysis of satellite imagery during natural and environmental disasters, for humanitarian relief activities and civil security issues worldwide. Contributions of ZKI are mainly made during the emergency response phase, but activities for preparedness, early warning and recovery are equally important tasks.

The case of the Padang earthquake illustrates how such data can be used to provide valuable emergency response information even before satellite images of the affected area are available. A better exchange of information and comprehensive collaborative research are needed to make post-disaster information products and their use more effective — and consequently improve emergency response efforts.

Published by: Earthzine on March 2, 2011

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