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Applying GIS to Emergency Preparedness and Response Practices

Applying GIS to Emergency Preparedness and Response Practices

In our final installment of the Effectively Managing Pipeline Regulatory Requirements with GIS series, we are going to tackle one of the most importance aspects of properly planning for and managing resources like Oil and Natural Gas. That is, preparing for emergencies and solidifying Emergency Response practices with your organization.

We touched on this in our last post on Enhancing Fate and Transport Modeling. However, this is worth exploring further as it is an essential part of pipeline regulations across the board.

Emergency Preparedness and Response Issues to Address

By now, I hope you are beginning to gather just how important technology like Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can be to the regulatory process. By harnessing the applications, methodologies, advanced Knowledge Management and spatial data management practices that the field entails, our teams are able to accomplish complex feats in a fraction of the time - and at much greater accuracy - than the old Pen and Paper days.

The advantages of applying this technology to Emergency Preparedness and Response Practices is no different. Using it live when an event is unfolding, it even plays a truly dynamic role to help us address issues and answer questions of our own...

What is around the area of the emergency? Viewing aerial photography with a targeted focus allows us to see what infrastructure, populated areas, environmental zones, and more are located within the vicinity.

What are the evacation requirements? Most emergency situations - whether they be natural disasters or infrastructure failure - require a plan for safely removing citizens, employees, and teams alike. They must also touch on getting first responders into the area as efficiently as possible By understanding these requirements overlaid with other factors like weather conditions, we can use these tools to provide guisance to response teams on safe entry and evacuation directions.

Is there a community shared services group that can be mobilized? While you by no means want to overcrowd an area at the time of a disaster, being able to deploy shared resources alongside your own may help to get the situation under control in a more timely manner. With the right technology, we can see if there are any community shared response services in the area that may be mobilized.

Where are the safety zones? When evacuating, teams and individuals alike need to know how far away from the impacted location they are allowed as well as what zones are recommended for both safety reasons as well as ensuring all people may be accounted for. By determining those areas most likely to be hit hardest with tools like Integrated Offsite, you can better decide where designated safety zones may be assigned.

What did the area look like prior to the incident? One of the most effective ways to relay the impact of an event - or even to determine those locations that need the most focus - is to know what the area looked like beforehand. Tying in this information alongside other components necessary for response allows emergency responders and stakeholder alike to see the progression of not only the disaster, but also its recovery.

The Approach to Response Scenarios Through HCA Discovery

While the method by which organizations choose to plan for Emergency Response scenarios may differ from company to company, we have found that all share a common component - determining the location of High Consequence Areas (HCA). By locating these zones, teams are able to access and report on those areas, infrastructure, and more that may be directly and indirectly impacted.

This discovery becomes simple when utilizing the proper GIS tools, like Integrated Offsite. It simply involves defining an analysis area by employing a selected offset distance or even basing analysis on pre-defined geometry. This information is then used to study those regions that would be impacted the most should an event occur, allowing your organization to better prioritize resources and find solutions to a few age-old questions...

  • What area will be hit first in the event of an oil spill?
  • What buildings and locations need to be evacuated first?
  • How quickly does evacuation need to occur - especially considering the Emergency Response time and location?
  • What areas need to be alerted in the event of an emergency? What levels of caution apply to them?
  • Are there any preventative measaures we can take to lessen potential impact, either through engineering or policy development?
  • Based on the surrounding area (i.e., number of citizens, businesses, hospitals), can emergency drills be performed? If so, how frequently?

While those using the applications that perform these analyses must be the ones to formulate the questions they need answered, applying poweful GIS technology alongside Emergency Preparedness and Response practices allows for achieving results for which you might otherwise still be searching - including the establishment of control points off of which to base further planning.


About This Series:

This series explores the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and applications to better manage pipeline regulations, especially within the Natural Resources and Emergency Response sectors.

  • Week 1 - Effectively Managing Pipeline Regulatory Requirements with GIS
  • Week 2 - Identifying Regulatory Hurdles in the Pipeline Industry
  • Week 3 - Better Administering Integrity Management Programs with GIS
  • Week 4 - Field Development Planning with GIS
  • Week 5 - Enhancing Fate and Transport Modeling with GIS
  • Week 6 - Applying GIS to Emergency Preparedness and Response Practices
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