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Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

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Geographic Information Systems for Disaster Response: A Review

Brian Tomaszewski
  • Corresponding author
  • Rochester Institute of Technology, Information Sciences and Technologies, 152 Lomb Memorial Drive, Room 70-2673, Rochester, NY, USA
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Michael Judex
  • Bundesamt für Bevölkerungsschutz und Katastrophenhilfe, Provinzialstr. 93, 53127 Bonn, Germany
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Joerg Szarzynski
  • United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), Platz der Vereinten Nationen 1, 53113 Bonn, Germany
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/ Christine Radestock / Lars Wirkus
Published Online: 2015-06-30 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2014-0082


Geographic Information Systems (GIS) continue to gain important recognition from disaster practitioners and academic researchers during what is arguably the most publicly visible disaster management phase – disaster response. The broader world of GIS academic research and industry practice for disaster response continues to change. This review article inventories the current state-of-the-art in GIS for disaster response and demonstrates progress in the data and people aspects of GIS for disaster response since previous literature reviews. The review is structured to serve as a metaphorical bridge between two reader groups – disaster management practitioners interested in understanding developing trends in GIS for disaster response and academic researchers with minimal to no understanding of GIS and/or mapping concepts within the disaster response context. With this readership in mind, we outline definitions of GIS, disaster response and the need for GIS in disaster response, review interdisciplinary literature from a variety of spatially-oriented disaster management fields and demonstrate progress in various aspects of GIS for disaster response. The review concludes with a GIS for disaster response research agenda and provides a list of resources for researchers new to GIS and spatial perspectives for disaster management research.

Keywords: disaster response; geographic information systems


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About the article

Corresponding author: Brian Tomaszewski, Rochester Institute of Technology, Information Sciences and Technologies, 152 Lomb Memorial Drive, Room 70-2673, Rochester, NY, USA, e-mail:

Published Online: 2015-06-30

Published in Print: 2015-09-01

Citation Information: Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Volume 12, Issue 3, Pages 571–602, ISSN (Online) 1547-7355, ISSN (Print) 2194-6361, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2014-0082.

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