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An evaluation of the role played by remote sensing technology following the World Trade Center attack

Charles K. Huyck1, Beverley J. Adams1 and David I. Kehrlein2

  1. ImageCat, Inc., 400 Oceangate, Suite 1050, Long Beach, CA, 90802; USA
  2. ImageCat, Inc., 6047 Woodhaven Avenue, Carmichael, CA, 95608, USA

Abstract: Remote sensing technology has been widely recognized for contributing to emergency response efforts after the World Trade Center attack on September 11th, 2001. The need to coordinate activities in the midst of a dense, yet relatively small area, made the combination of imagery and mapped data strategically useful. This paper reviews the role played by aerial photography, satellite imagery, and LIDAR data at Ground Zero. It examines how emergency managers utilized these datasets, and identifies significant problems that were encountered. It goes on to explore additional ways in which imagery could have been used, while presenting recommendations for more effective use in future disasters and Homeland Security applications. To plan adequately for future events, it was important to capture knowledge from individuals who responded to the World Trade Center attack. In recognition, interviews with key emergency management and geographic information system (GIS) personnel provide the basis of this paper. Successful techniques should not be forgotten, or serious problems dismissed. Although widely used after September 11th, it is important to recognize that with better planning, remote sensing and GIS could have played an even greater role. Together with a data acquisition timeline, an expanded discussion of these issues is available in the MCEER/NSF report “Emergency Response in the Wake of the World Trade Center Attack: The Remote Sensing Perspective” (see Huyck and Adams, 2002).

Keywords: World Trade Center (WTC); terrorism; emergency responses; emergency management; ground zero; remote sensing; emergency operations; disasters; geographic information systems (GIS); satellite imagery; synthetic aperture radar (SAR); light detection and ranging imagery (LIDAR)

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Copyright© 2009 IEM. Journal of Earthquake Engineering and Engineering Vibration. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise, except as described below, without written permission from the Publisher. Copying of articles is not permitted except for personal and internal use, to the extent permitted by national copyright law, or under the terms of a license issued by the National Reproduction Rights Organization of China.