Preliminary Damage Assessment
National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration (n.d.) is using handheld
Geographic Positions System or GPS device when completing door to door surveys in order to
document entire coastal areas. A GPS position is obtained on a structure along with a financial
damage estimate and a photograph of the structure. This information is then downloaded into a
Geographic Information System [GIS] platform for plotting and review. The GIS system allows
the field data to be represented in pictorial form allowing larger quantities of detailed
information to be integrated and provide a more complete and accurate scope of the damage.
Wild fire crews from LA County Fire Department are using both hand held GPS devices
and a Personal Data Assistance or PDA to log in specific field reports. Both devices are returned
to a central computer, download and brought into a GIS system to map not only damage but also
fire progress (Patterson, 2002).
While evaluating the damage at the World Trade Center, an engineering team from the
Georgia Institute of Technology, used a combination of devices including a PDA, a handheld
GPS and a digital camera synchronized to the handheld GPS for recording the locations of
specific damage and to record field notes (Bowie, 2001).
Computer data entry has given rise to the use of geographic information systems as a
means of showing field data in a mapping platform. In the last ten years, the emergence of GIS
technology has given emergency managers and fire chiefs a tremendous means to organize large
quantities of information quickly and to make more accurate critical decisions (Koegler, 2003).
The ability to display this information in a geographic context, complete with buildings, roads
and hydrology, permits large areas of land to be viewed as a picture or map at a glance.