Tools of the trade

The following are just a few examples of the kinds of tools the Pacific Disaster Center, a federal information-processing facility, developed to help emergency managers.

* PDC-enhanced Web site (www.pdc.org). This online geographic information system resource, based on technology supplied by ESRI, allows users to perform GIS analysis using PDC's data resources without having to purchase their own GIS software.

It also allows subscribers to access completed products by selecting them from on-screen icons or from menus related to geographic regions of interest. This capability was recently used during the war in Afghanistan to plan humanitarian assistance and to track in-country support activities.

* Risk and vulnerability assessment. PDC has been working with the NASA/Prescott College Sustainability and Global Change Program in Hawaii to field a system that can assess and map risks and vulnerabilities at the community level. The risk and vulnerability assessment will combine PDC data and information resources with the output from high-performance geophysical hazard models to create the maps.

This allows decision-makers to design and review growth models and the impact of natural hazards on planning scenarios. Risk and vulnerability assessments are becoming more important in the Pacific as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank address natural hazards in their planning processes. This kind of tool will be particularly important to PDC's future by meeting what the center's officials see as an unfilled niche.

* PDC enterprise database. This relational database from Oracle Corp. will provide internal and external PDC users with access to PDC data that is being held in a structured, documented environment. It will house spatial data and its associated metadata, and will provide access to it through both graphical and keyword search tools.

PDC officials view this database as a crucial step toward the kind of distributed data network they hope to use in their support and analysis activities.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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