3D Maps Improve Disaster Prevention and Rescue EJINSIGHT

Abnormal and even extreme weather phenomena have become more frequent. The Observatory predicts that the incidence of tropical cyclones and total rainfall this year will be “normal to high”. To be well prepared, the Department of Civil Engineering and Development recently released an advisory report that studies the impact of storm surges and waves on low-lying or windy coastal areas under extreme weather and climate conditions. There are three recommendations, including:

1. Implement the design and construction works of the improvement works;
2. Design action plans for the implementation of management measures;
3. Liaise/coordinate with relevant government departments, private sectors/stakeholders for implementation modalities.

Of the three measures, the last on the coordination of internal and external parts of the government is the most important and urgent point to improve at present. Taiwan, our neighboring country, also faces the same problem every year, we can certainly learn from their experiences.

Earlier, three senior disaster management researchers from the National Center of Science and Technology for Disaster Reduction (NCDR) shared their experience of disaster relief and flood control in an article. Using a 3D Geographic Information System (GIS), NCDR set up a war game simulation for different disaster or flood scenarios. The purpose of the simulation is to help managers understand various disaster situations and determine if their emergency response plans and procedures can reduce the impact of a flood disaster, including the deployment resources, evacuation assistance and route planning for relief distribution. Now, officers from Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs) in Taiwan’s 22 cities, counties and special municipalities can use the platform to analyze both disaster risk and flood preparedness.

In addition to looking at different terrains to estimate flood depth, the GIS platform also looks at population composition (communities with many elderly people or young children), assets to be protected (infrastructure, major roads, schools) and assesses the location of emergency shelters, the number of residents the shelters can accommodate, and the distribution of emergency supplies. The information is presented on a 2D map, allowing the central and local EOC commanders to visualize on the screen and organize the corresponding actions.

The 3D GIS platform goes one step further by presenting a digital terrain model (DTM) displaying terrain and non-terrestrial information (such as overhead railways and bridges) in an evenly spaced 20 x 20 meter grid , with overlays of satellite imagery, street maps and 3D building models. It also integrates real-time video feeds from Taiwan’s Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) monitors. During flood simulation exercises, this helps on-site emergency units communicate and coordinate so they can develop emergency solutions that take into account potential damage to buildings and traffic.

The platform also makes it possible to help disadvantaged people more effectively. For example, all retirement homes will be able to be displayed on the screen, while rest homes located on the ground floor will be specially marked for priority treatment. The detailed information not only helps social welfare organizations assess their own disaster risks, but also facilitates their monitoring of government prevention and evacuation plans, as well as staff training.

The use of innovative technologies has significantly improved coordination between government, public and private companies, so that everyone can act in a coordinated manner in the event of a crisis.

John Lee, the chief executive-designate of the Hong Kong special administrative region, mentioned in his election manifesto that the new government should “strengthen governance capacity”. To do a good job, the best tools are needed. If we can make the most of cutting-edge technology, “improving governance efficiency” and “creating synergies” will not be empty words.

— Contact us at [email protected]

Dr Winnie Tang

Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences; and Faculty of Architecture, University of Hong Kong

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