Last summer, a tragedy occurred when Blanco River began flooding the town of Wimberley, Texas. 15 people were killed and more than 60 homes were taken off their foundations. Of the victims, eight were swept away in the floods and went missing. Hundreds of people searched along the rough terrain of the 67-mile river attempting to find the victims.
Technology was a huge help during the search efforts—especially GIS. According to Devon Humphrey, a GIS consultant who ran Wimberley’s GIS system during the search, “GIS was tracking in real time what the field crews and search and rescue teams were seeing in the field.”
“[GIS] is used in all major emergency responses, whether it be a hurricane like Katrina or the Nepal earthquake that happened this year,” Humphrey said.
During the search, 1,500 volunteers downloaded an app where they could input details about their search locations. They entered data such as which areas needed to be revisited, which required search-and-rescue dogs and which were cleared. They could also add pictures. The information was then available to all users, updated in real time. Using this system, volunteers recovered six victims.
This usage of GIS is an amazing example of the ways technology can benefit society, in good times and bad.