Free or low-cost geoinformatics for disaster management: uses and availability issues

Richard Teeuw, Mathias Leidig, Charlotte Saunders, Naomi Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The disaster management applications of geographical information systems and remote sensing are examined relative to the disaster cycle, in pre-disaster, crisis and post-disaster contexts. We focus on the uses and limitations of free or low-cost data and software. A wide range of geospatial datasets are currently freely available, from digital elevation models (DEMs) and thematic digital maps, to multispectral satellite imagery and virtual globes, such as Bing Maps. Maps of hazardous terrain and vulnerable features can be derived from sets of satellite data such as shuttle radar topography mission DEMs and Landsat imagery. The derived maps are particularly useful for district scale (1:25 to 1:100 K) disaster management in low-income countries. Detailed maps (i.e. better than 1:25 K scale) of hazardous terrain and vulnerable features generally require expensive high-resolution satellite imagery or aerial photography. Although the Internet allows the distribution of free or low-cost geospatial data, software and training materials, there are still some countries with limited Internet access. Data integration, spatial/temporal analysis and map production are also limited by the frequently high price of geoinformatic software, making it a priority to develop suitable Free and Open-Source Software.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-131
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironmental Hazards
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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