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GIS Solution To Effective Disaster Management 

By Collette Lukong

In a quest to prevent disasters and emergencies in Cameroon, the Geospatial Information and Management Centre, GEOSIMAC, has brought the Geographic Information System, GIS, for disaster and emergency management to Buea, Southwest Region.

The venture which took place at the Fakoship Plaza, May 7-9, 2014, was aimed at enhancing the capabilities of humanitarian organisations, Governments and other sectors by providing them with the understanding of using spatial information in disaster and emergency management.

Timely and correct information is critical for any emergency management programme to be successful. GIS can provide that sort of information because of its unique capability to integrate data from multi-sources in a way that facilitate the understanding and solutions to problems such as disaster or emergency events. The GIS set of tools can capture, store, analyse, manage and present information or data linked to particular locations.

 

Global Positioning System, GPS, on the other hand has vastly changed the way people work outdoors. GPS can be used as a navigation aid, a tool for biological monitoring resource planning and management. Developing skills to use GIS, GPS and Remote Sensing Technology, RST; safely and effectively are important to add value to your work and or organisation.

In an interview with The Post Jackson Acha Atem, GIS Application Specialist held that ‘‘GIS can be applied in various domains, including disasters, emergency management, agriculture, town planning, forestry, environment, town planning and natural resources in general. We cannot prevent natural disasters because they are there and must occur; but we can mitigate the impact of disasters with the GIS’’.

Atem explained that using the GIS, could bring about information, incorporated from multi-sources into a system that will avail concerned groups to be prepared for disasters such as knowing the fastest roads to evacuate people to shorter but safe distances. He took the example of the Buea Municipality to say that during lava flow, the GIS can help locate shorter distances where people can be evacuated.

 

Asked if Atem knew of any disasters that occurred in Cameroon and were badly managed either because of lack of will, way-out or logistics, he replied that fire incidences occur almost every time, of which the fire departments or emergency department at hospitals are supposed to intervene within three to five minutes but that most often this is not done in Cameroon.

The GIS Application Specialist stressed that there is a better way to go about such disasters and emergencies; ‘’When we look at the vulnerability and risk that the people of Buea are exposed to, we can then educate them on the importance of the GIS, the location of possible evacuation centres in case of any disasters and then strive to bring together the Police, Fire Fighting Departments and Hospital Emergency Departments to speak in one voice. This is what I am doing; awareness creation. We can also look at the type of houses we can build in high risk areas, the type of vegetation to promote and how to prevent floods or droughts in risk areas’’.

‘‘This year, for example, we have very low rainfall which is a possibility that our harvest will be low. A holistic approach from Government and individuals like myself could help prepare ourselves for that situation, especially by looking into areas like forest conservation in our area. But we have a problem in Cameroon; we never want to invest money to acquire knowledge that will help us; we rather concern ourselves with ways to get jobs with the Government, forgetting that what matters at this point in time is professional skills and expertise, not jobs,’’ Atam clarified.

An attendee, John Paul Suiven, told The Post that the training was very timely, not only for disaster and emergency management but also for capacity building and development as a whole. Knowledge acquired can never be lost and I thank the organisers for this endeavour and pray our Government to join hands with organisations as this, to seek solutions to our plight.

On her part, Alice Agbor said, “We are into forest conservation and I must say the that GIS will go a long way to enhance our output in the field and more so, positive results. I’m also privileged that my company sent me to learn from this venture and I will do my best to ensure that my colleagues and I explore all the positive ideas I will carry to them from this training”.

Disasters are natural or man made events that cause intensive, negative impact on people, goods, and services and or the environment, often exceeding the affected community’s capability to respond. Individuals and organisations responsible for emergency management use many tools to save lives; reduce human suffering and preserve economic assets before, during and after catastrophic events, (floods, war, fire, transport accidents, and earthquakes, to name but these).

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