3safe locations for emergency shelters and evacuationroutes. Disaster management systems and field reportingmechanisms are key tools for understanding andmanaging relief and recovery activities, including therelocation of people and the management of the logisticsfor food, fuel, water, medicines and other critical assets.This logistical information should also be linked to spatialinformation systems, enabling disaster managers tovisualize on a map the correlation of disaster damage andcasualties together with the available and neededfacilities and supplies. Another essential tool for disaster response is emergencycommunication. Emergency communication operatingprocedures and equipment must be established andmade available to various actors involved in disaster response. In an emergency situation, these actors musthave reliable and redundant communication channels, assome forms of telecommunications infrastructure may bedamaged by extreme disasters. Emergency communica-tion should consider such requirements as: (a) enablingthe relevant actors to continuously report from within thedisaster areas; and (b) maintaining their access toinformation sources, such as meteorological reports, at alltimes. Pre-established crisis situation centres should beequipped with crisis management systems to handle thecommand and control of rescue teams.
Challenges in the use of ICT for disaster risk reduction
Lack of data and information sharing.
The data andinformation needed for disaster risk reduction come froma wide variety of sources which often are not shared or integrated in a way that facilitates timely and accuratedecision-making in a disaster situation. This is further complicated due to the differences in standards used for data collection and classification within nationalboundaries, as well as between neighbouring countries inthe case of trans-boundary disasters, creating difficultieswhen users attempt to access and analyse data. Somecountries lack historical records about hazards and thequality of the data may vary. Frequently, historical data isnot available in an electronic format, and it lacks proper classification and descriptive information (metadata),which makes it difficult to compare data among regions.
Insufficient human and institutional capacity
. Policymakersworking on disaster risk reduction may be aware of thepotential that ICT tools may hold for their work; however,there may be a lack of skilled staff to analyse andinterpret data for evidence-based policy- and decision-making. Also, national disaster risk reduction entities maylack the institutional arrangements that would enablethem to mobilize sufficient human and material resourcesto benefit from ICT, or to obtain such resources from other countries or institutions in the region through cooperationor assistance mechanisms.
Lack of connectivity and unreliability of telecommunicationnetworks
. The flow of information in an early warningsystem often originates from global or regional sources(for example, meteorological and seismic data), andneeds to reach, through a national centre, localauthorities and ultimately people in their communities.Therefore, it is critical that all the stakeholders in an earlywarning system have access to communication tools thatenable them to fulfil their role in a timely and cost-effective way.In the event of severe disasters, connectivity in manycountries fails. Moreover, developing countries,particularly the least developed countries and small islanddeveloping States, have frequent power outages andpossess unreliable telecommunications networks thatoffer only low connection speeds, both nationally andinternationally. Outdated or insufficient equipmentsupporting the telecommunications backbone as well asthe user terminals, such as television, radio and personalcomputers, contribute to this problem. These conditionsmay result in average citizens and emergency responseteams being incapable of receiving early warnings or achieving their objectives, if the communicationinfrastructure on which they depend is affected or rendered unavailable by a natural hazard or other reasons.
The successful implementation of ICT applications,including those that are space-based, for disaster riskreduction requires an enabling environment which fostersthe development of ICT infrastructure, capacities andinstitutional arrangements. Despite the increasingawareness and availability of resources for disaster riskreduction, and the affordability and reach of ICT topreviously unconnected communities, it would beunrealistic to expect everything to be put in place soon.In the meantime, it is important for developing countriesto leverage the available ICT resources and services,while prioritizing and planning the mainstreaming of ICTin plans, efforts and initiatives related to disaster riskreduction.The ESCAP secretariat recommends the following areasof policy intervention pertaining to the issues andchallenges raised above.
Information collection and sharing
. National datacollection, standardization and sharing procedures andguidelines should be established for collectingenvironmental and social data that are needed for riskassessments, hazard monitoring and disaster forecasting.Data should be appropriately classified and made widelyavailable electronically for use by national andinternational stakeholders. To obtain urgent space-basedinformation for response and early relief activities,