(Special correspondent Eddie Pickle reports on the conference from The Netherlands)
I didn’t know quite what to expect, but as is often the case, things were generally just as labeled. The focus WAS on geo-information for disaster management (or Gi4DM as they shortened it). The setting WAS the Technical University of Delft. So, the focus was on “technical” data on this first day - satellite, radar, remote sensing, etc.
There were about 320 people registered, and I counted about 200 in the largest session today (some new faces will come over the next 2 days). The best thing about the conference (except for the reception in the historic Delft town hall, which was very fun as far as conference gatherings go!) was the proceedings, which came in a huge (1434 pp.) book (not counting a 94 page addendum for late papers) There were very few Americans (a refreshing change), and a large Dutch contingent, of course, but it was a very international crowd with all European and many Asian countries represented (plus Canada and Africa that I could see).
Peter van Oosterom of TU Delft was an amiable and cordial Dutch host. Michael Goodchild of UC Santa Barbara gave the keynote of the day, and he spoke on some basics before getting to his core problem: In a disaster (and every other GIS mode) “analysis” is the only part of the process that happens fast; too much time is spent on steps getting ready to do analysis. He talked about interoperability, a common data model, etc. to speed things up. And, he spent some time on the unique aspect of Gi4DM - the fact that the user may be at the same location as the subject (i.e. onsite at the disaster). This led to a review of some of the devices that GIS people at UCSB and Columbia are tinkering with to take GIS out on into the real world.
By far the best and most interesting presentation of the day was by Boudewijn Ambrosius’ of TU Delft on his research (with several others) on the December Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. They were already doing research in Indonesia using satellite altimeters and GPS on plate movements and the former caught the tsunami in motion and the latter got a lot of great data on the various plates/earthquakes and the very far-flung effects of the event. His charts on which stations moved how far and in what directions (and they were stationed on 4 plates) would blow your mind!
You can go online and see the presentation list - there weren’t any no-shows today. I did very much like Cees van Westen’s organized and thorough presentation on disaster management in Nepal, and Dusan Sakulski of the UN University in Germany was a dynamic and interesting speaker on the National Disaster Hazard and Vulnerability “Atlas” in South Africa - he made the point that a lot of first world countries would learn a lot from South Africa, and he backed it up with examples of excellent data collection and management processes there. I stayed all day and noted the focus on technology, not really “information.” Several people agreed with me that the topics were not exactly holistic or comprehensive.
After the last session ended I got to walk through a 300-400 year old city with flowers and trees showing early spring stirrings and quite mild temperatures, to a festive gathering in the wonderful town hall (with its 10’ by 10’ map of Old Delft on the wall). Even a Chamber of Commerce speech by the Lord Mayor of Delft!. The conference will reconvene in Indonesia next year!