Interactive Disaster Map of Japan

on Monday, Mar. 14th

An array of software and interactive tools have been released in the wake of the 8.9 earthquake in Japan last week.

Google’s Person Finder was launched within hours of the disaster, and Google has steadily been adding resources to the page including maps, message boards, and updates about blackouts, transportation and shelters. But another company has revealed itself as a major player in the world of analytics – Esri.

The mapping company has just released an extraordinary interactive map organizing multiple layers of information including recent You Tube videos, Tweets, and Flickr posts from areas devastated by the quake (screen shot above).

What is Esri? As best I can tell, the company based in Redlands, California with 2700 employees throughout the country, is the man behind the man. Simon Thompson, a member of the team that designed the earthquake map, says Esri’s clients run the gamut from disaster relief NGO’s and federal agencies like FEMA, to utility companies, insurers, and municipal governments.

Thompson says Esri is all about actionable intelligence. “We want to move away from ready, aim, fire,” meaning that they try to leverage data before it’s too late, something he says they did just last week. “When the tsunamis were surging across the Pacific, we were working with insurance companies to calculate the potential damage,” which gave insurers precious time to reach out to clients on Hawaii and the West Coast to prepare them for what was coming and mitigate damages. He quipped, “Failure to prepare is preparation for failure.”

But Esri is also about reaction. Today in Japan, the company is providing analytical support to relief efforts. “We’re able to model the disaster. How many people are affected and where are they?” Thompson explains that by cross referencing population data with elevation maps, Esri has been able to estimate the number of people affected by flooding. Based on that information, rescuers can begin to estimate the amount of supplies like water, food, shelter, and manpower that are needed in particular areas.

Simon Thompson says that right now, much of Esri’s work is about trying to make people’s lives normal again. And for people across the world not affected by the disaster itself, Esri’s Japan Incident Map gives them a way to better understand what’s happening.

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