By Ryan Bardach
It is one thing when a disaster hits an area of the world such as the United States, an economically stable nation with ample resources to respond to a disaster, such as an oil spill or a hurricane. While the damages can run up to billions of dollars, the US has more than enough resources to get things turned around relatively quickly, an important factor even when companies such as BP accept responsibility for incidents such as the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. However, responding to a disaster in one of the poorest nations in the world is a completely different story. This is what makes the 2010 earthquake in Haiti such an important disaster.
On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the island nation of Haiti. With death tolls in the hundreds of thousands and some estimates of those left homeless around a million, the earthquake was one of the most devastating in recorded human history. With so few resources at its disposal, Haiti has relied heavily on foreign aid to prop itself up following the earthquake, and with this foreign aid has also come foreign technology. One notable aspect of this has been the implementation of Google Earth into the Haiti relief effort. Shortly after the quake, several KMLs were created to assist in various aspects of the relief effort, from the spread of information to actual relief work in Haiti. One such layer is the Haiti Earthquake layer (Google, 2010), which provides several different ways to look at the disaster. Components of the layer include damage assessment, population exposure, and aftershocks, providing one of the most comprehensive views of the disaster available anywhere.
One of the most important aspects of the layer however is undoubtedly its ability to locate refugee camps in the cities. While seeing actual images of these camps can absolutely have a major effect on anyone observing them, they also serve an important role in the relief work on the ground in Haiti. The fact that an aid worker can use a “laptop to show a satellite map of Port-au-Prince” (Hodge, 2010, 7) and pinpoint the areas needing help in such a large, crowded city has been an invaluable tool.
Using Google Earth has simplified the process of coordinating aid efforts, making it significantly easier to plan where everything needed to go. This is especially important considering that a majority of the devastation occurred in the cities, most notably Port-au-Prince. In such a crowded, busy city, it can be easy to lose precious time if one does not know what they are doing. Says Brian Kelly, an official for the International Organization for Migration who was involved with the recovery effort using Google Earth, “We need to understand, not in month three but in week two, where people have moved and what their conditions are” (Carroll, 2010, 10). With Google Earth, visualizing the locations that need help the most and making plans to help them becomes a much simpler task.
Carroll, R . (2010, Mar. 4). Haiti aid workers use Google Earth to map survivors. Guardian. Retrieved from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/04/haiti-aid-workers-google-earth
Google. (2010). Haiti Earthquake [KML Application for Google Earth]. Available from http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2010/01/imagery_layer_for_haiti_earthquake.html
Hodge, N. (2010, Feb. 9). Haiti Relief’s Secret Weapon: Google Earth. Wired. Retrieved from:http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/02/haiti-reliefs-secret-weapon-google-earth/
Macsai, D. (2010, Jan. 14). Haiti Earthquake Disaster: Google Earth, Online-Map Makers, Texts “Absolutely Crucial.” Fast Company. http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/dan-macsai/popwise/haiti-earthquake-google-maps-web-tech