When looking at mapping for disasters, one of the last places you would expect me to go topic wise is to look at Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for K-12.
There are four phases of emergency management – mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. As emergency managers we often think of schools as a place to encourage preparedness – knowing what to do when disaster strikes. But schools have so much more to offer us and there are some things we have to offer them as well.
Students learn about history, math and science. They hear about volcanoes like Mount Vesuvius or explorers like Lewis and Clark. But are we connecting the dots… teaching about the volcanoes that have occurred in our states or the ones that have impacted really large areas like the Yellowstone Caldera or perhaps asking why explorers would choose one route over another (climate, terrain, supplies) and why people today pick their route based on several factors.
What about floods or hurricanes or winter storms or perhaps tsunamis and earthquakes. Each of these hazards can affect our communities and these events can interrupt the school year. Often times as adults we are continually challenged by short memories and statements like “I haven’t seen an event like this in my lifetime…” because we don’t know or were never taught the long history of that hazard.
This is where K-12 education, GIS and Emergency Management come together. As evidenced by the following link, companies like ESRI have built a strong customer base with the K-12 community. School districts and states across the country have access to licenses of ESRI’s software for use in the classroom. Teachers and administrators are always looking for ways to use technology to improve the classroom experience for students.
Likewise, Emergency Managers are looking for ways to raise awareness of the natural hazards that pose the greatest risk to their communities. In order to be effective at raising awareness and mitigating against future losses you first need to know your risk for likely hazards.
Emergency managers, GIS professionals and K-12 educators need to begin to network more and explore a more collaborative relationships that provide better data as well as subject matter expertise to support the K-12 curriculum while facilitating outreach opportunities that support the goals of emergency managers.
This seems simple and it is. Reach out to your local school district or schools in your community. Also get to know your emergency manager.
At the end of the day, perhaps this teamwork can raise awareness, provide tools and learning opportunities to our future generations and ultimately make our communities stronger on all sides.