GeoCarta Has Moved

Nov 10, 2005

Geocoding Saves LIves After Katrina

Rescue crews attempting to save people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina faced a serious problem. Not only were the crews unfamiliar with the Gulf Coast area, but with floodwaters flowing down streets and many street signs missing, addresses of victims needing rescue were of very little use.

Enter the GIS professionals of GISCorps. The organiztion fielded 20 volunteers on the ground in Mississippi less than 48 hours after Katrina's landfall. The GIS professionals used a process called "geocoding," to convert street addresses into global positioning system (GPS) coordinates. Shoreh Elhami, director of GISCorps explained to CNN, "They would get phone calls, or the Coast Guard would come in with addresses in their hands and say, 'I need a latitude and longitude for this address.' So the GIS professionals would do a geocoding, give it to the Coast Guard who got on helicopters and saved lives."

After assisting in rescue operations, the GISCorps prepared maps detailing road conditions, power outages, underground gas storage, and facilities with hazardous materials. Since 2004, GISCorps, a part of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association has responded to disasters such as the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, as well as other humanitarian efforts.