Dec. 12, 2011
Northwest graduate uses GIS lessons to assist with disaster relief
By Brittany Keithley, media relations assistant
Having earned his master’s degree in geographic information science at Northwest Missouri State University, Jeff Eisman hopes to incorporate the GIS technologies he learned to benefit organizations assisting with humanitarian aid.
Eisman, of Boone, N.C., graduates this winter from Northwest with his master’s degree and is applying his education to disaster relief efforts in Haiti. Eisman related the lessons he learned about GIS at Northwest to his work at Samaritan’s Purse International Relief Organization to more effectively develop disaster relief efforts.
“My education at Northwest has given me the experience and confidence to use GIS for international aid and development,” Eisman said. “I am faced with numerous challenges working internationally, and I feel prepared to handle those challenges due to the variety of classes I took during my degree program.”
Eisman serves as the GIS manager of Samaritan’s Purse and uses GIS to provide support for teams heading into the field. After the January 2010 Haiti earthquake, his department offered earthquake-location maps and Port au Prince city maps so teams could navigate once they arrived at the location. They also provided city elevation and drainage maps so teams could better determine the placement of instrumental water-filtration units.
Eisman also saw the value of GIS when an unexpected outbreak of cholera hit Haiti, a year after the earthquake. His department helped predict the path of the spread of the disease so personnel could preposition supplies and medicine.
Eisman wrote about his efforts and more in an article titled, “From Disaster Response to Relief and Development: An Integrated GIS Approach for Nonprofit Organizations,” published in GeoWorld.
Eisman said Samaritan’s Purse is also taking the lead on using new technology to be more effective in disaster responses. The organization created iPhone and iPad applications that will be used for rapid assessment and providing crucial information on where the need is the greatest in addition to speeding up the delivery of food, water or shelter. This added efficiency helps identify areas that need the most help while quickly providing aid.
“I hope in the future to use my experience and degree from Northwest to help other nonprofit organizations learn how to use GIS and implement a system to be more efficient,” Eisman said. “In the end, it is about helping those in need, and I feel GIS can play a major role in that.”
Dr. Patricia Drews, associate professor of geography and GIScience graduate program director, helped Eisman continue his graduate studies while he worked at Samaritan’s Purse.
“Jeff is a good example of how our online graduate programs in GIScience allows working professionals to continue their education and earn a graduate degree while keeping their current employment,” Drews said. “Jeff’s work using GIS to assist with the disaster relief efforts of Samaritan’s Purse truly illustrates how our students apply their education toward solving real-world problems.”
Drews noted GIS and the related technologies of GPS and remote sensing are used widely across many endeavors, including disaster response and mitigation, homeland security and defense, natural resources management, precision agriculture, utilities, and a host of business applications.
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