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Managing Disasters With High-Tech Imaging Could Save Lives


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The Information Products Laboratory for Emergency Response, a partnership between the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and the University at Buffalo (UB), aims to improve disaster mitigation planning and real-time response and recovery efforts. The laboratory will unite university researchers, private-sector providers, and emergency response decision-makers in an effort that will focus on technology, policy, and business development. "The economic benefit of this initiative will be seen in the growth of disaster-related information products and workers who know how to use them," says RIT's Donald Boyd, the lead scientist on the project.

Central to the lab's mission will be matching the needs of emergency responders with information products that combine remote sensing imagery with geographical information systems. Geospatial analysis technology can be used to show emergency responders what is happening during a disaster, where events are taking place, and how the crises may evolve over time. The first group of information products will focus on flood and fire mapping, and the following year additional products will be developed based on user needs. Lab researchers also will hold a series of workshops to unite disaster management experts and technology and service providers.

"We could potentially go from fires to gas leak detection, environmental disasters, terrorist attacks," says RIT's Don McKeown. "A lot of the tools you have in your remote-sensing tool box are the same; it doesn't matter what the application is." The project also will fund an undergraduate student researcher in imaging science and computer science, as well as a doctoral candidate.

From Rochester Institute of Technology
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