While there has been a great deal of research that addresses some of the communications obstacles during disasters, there has been few studies on how new information technologies can be integrated to improve communication in disaster response operations. In this research experiment held at Disaster City, Texas, researchers focused on how GIS technologies and cell phones could be utilized by “citizen volunteers” in Community Emergency Response Teams to conduct damage assessments and provide reports and photographs from the field to improve situational awareness in the first hours after a simulated earthquake. This article highlights the power of GIS as a spatial decision support system by emergency managers and the importance of rapid damage assessments after disasters. Finally, this research showed that though there were a number of significant challenges faced by the GIS technician in integrating data collected from the field by citizen volunteers into GIS systems at the EOC, the information was well utilized by the Incident Commander for gaining situational awareness and by the City Engineer to identify buildings with severe damage.
©2011 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston