United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)
has publicly released a Google Earth-based mapping system, 3D User Defined Operational Pictures (UDOP)
(Google Earth plug-in required), aiming to help emergency personnel and donors better respond to humanitarian crises.
Currently, UDOP maps are available for responses in Haiti and Chile. Data layers uploaded by SOUTHCOM and others can be toggled on and off and depict an array of information, from earthquake intensity maps to a 3D model of Haiti’s collapsed presidential palace. Other layers mark:
Although intriguing, the mapping system currently has major shortcomings: much of the information provided is out of date rather than in real time, and while some maps include information such as the structural integrity of buildings, patient capacities of hospitals, and brief status updates on site activities, others offer little more than approximate locations and names.
- Locations and statuses of hospitals;
- Collapsed or blockaded sections of major roadways;
- Helipads and airstrips;
- Food and water distribution centers;
- IDP shelters; and
- Areas of gang activity.
Haiti and Chile, however, were only the first tests of the UDOP system. Given that the distinction between real-time and frozen data is blurred during days immediately following a disaster (the period for which UDOP is designed and most needed) and that the donor and humanitarian assistance communities will likely develop greater familiarity and comfort with the system over time, UDOP’s current flaws may simply reflect the system’s recent adoption.
For more on Google’s contributions to environmental work and human security, check out our previous post on educational climate change “tours” in Google Earth.