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MCEER Bulletin, Volume 24, Number 1, Spring 2010

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Volume 24, Number 1, Spring 2010

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Virtual Disaster Viewer Used to Disseminate Images and Topographical Data from Haiti Earthquake

Screenshot from the Virtual Disaster Viewer.

Screenshot from the Virtual Disaster Viewer.

On January 20, 2010, a World Bank-ImageCat-RIT airborne remote sensing data collection, disseminated by MCEER, began over the earthquake stricken regions of Haiti.

The reconnaissance involved daily flights over a seven day period to collect remote sensing imagery in the visible and infrared, as well as light detection and ranging (LiDAR) topography in the area around Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The data was processed quickly and made available for viewing through the Virtual Disaster Viewer (VDV), located on the MCEER website at

Up-to-date damage information including collapsed buildings, bridges and other barriers, as well as environmental changes such as heat sources, pollution and vegetation changes, could be determined with the data collected. The images can be used to better coordinate emergency response and relief activities in the short term, provide baseline data for recovery of the community in the long term, and aid research efforts to improve future response to similar disasters.

The reconnaissance was arranged by the NSF-sponsored Information Products Laboratory for Emergency Response (IPLER) project, co-led by the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and the University at Buffalo (UB) and one of its industry partners (ImageCat, Inc.). The collaborative effort is led by Ronald Eguchi (ImageCat, Inc.), Don Mckeown and Jan van Aardt, (RIT’s Center for Imaging Science) and Chris Renschler (MCEER and the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis located at UB).

The rapid response project was funded by the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) through a contract with ImageCat, Inc. The data collection is coordinated with the U.S. Geological Survey and NOAA, who have also requested additional imagery and specific LiDAR collection for a more accurate mapping of the fault line that caused the earthquake as well as the post-event tremors.

For more information on IPLER, an NSF-sponsored partnership between the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University at Buffalo dedicated to innovation in disaster management, visit