There’s a powerful tool in the arsenal of disaster mitigation (which includes prevention) systems-the Graphical Information System (GIS) that includes oblique imagery. With this tool, it is possible to look at cities and rural areas as if you were Superman, with the ability to rapidly fly around large areas of land and buildings, and with vision that allows you to rapidly perceive it from all angles. Ways to enter and leave buildings and areas can be quickly identified, even if visibility is poor because of smoke.
Oblique-imagery GIS systems make it possible to minimize the impact of an impending disaster, rapidly respond to a disaster in progress and remediate damage more rapidly. There are two major issues: (1) Like all computer systems you the output is only as good as the data fed into the system; and (2) Oblique Imagery GIS systems cost a small fortune to implement and maintain.
One solution to both of these issues is to use what I term an “Assessor-Enabled Graphical Information System.”
Solution to Issue 1: Provide Rich Data
Assessors are elected government officials who evaluates (assesses) property for the purpose of valuing and taxing it in a fair and equitable manner. The information provided by Assessors provides a rich foundation for GIS systems. The rich data that Assessors provide makes the information provided by other sources such as transportation departments, universities, land management organizations, public safety departments, “lifeline data” (water, electricity, sewage) hazardous waste control agencies more valuable.
Here, for example, are two the types of data to which Assessors have access as a normal part of their job:
- Fundamental Information – such as parcel boundaries, property ownership, are easily supplied by the Assessor’s office.
- Locational Data – Assessors have an intimate knowledge of the location of police, fire, ambulance, military facilities, community centers, churches, garages, supermarkets, gas stations, storage sites, hotels, and earth-moving equipment. Assessors also have detailed information on the “business personal property” in each location.
Solution to Issue 2: Oblique Imagery GIS systems are Expensive
The fact of the matter is that you can not effectively reduce the costs of these systems, but Assessor-Enabled GIS systems can be more affordable than standard systems for these reasons
- The fact that they can be implemented over a wide area, such as a region, state or province often qualifies them for grants from national governments. The U.S.A. and Canada have made tens of millions of dollars of funding available.
- Private companies may be willing to partner in developing such a system, because it will cost them substantially less than developing it on their own.
- GIS systems can save Assessors and auditor substantial amounts of time, reducing the cost of complying with existing regulations.
- GIS systems can identify property that was not previously taxed, equalizing the tax burden for property owners in an area, and bringing in additional revenue to counties, states and other governmental units.
If your organization is interested in the advantages of GIS, perhaps you should contact your local Assessor or the agency that coordinates the Assessors in your area, typically a Department of Taxation or Department of Revenue.