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Imagine That! -- "Hi-Tech Maps Help in Disasters"

Imagine That!
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Imagine That! -- "Hi-Tech Maps Help in Disasters"

Credit: NSF/Finger Lakes Productions International

Audio Transcript:

When disaster strikes, a speedy response is vital. Soon, smart new maps may help first responders save lives.

Imagine That!

(SOUND: sirens, panicked voices)

In crisis situations like fires or earthquakes, decisions need to be made quickly: how to get people out of danger fast...where relief shelters should be.... how to bring in supplies? The information may be there, but firefighters, police, and ambulance drivers often can't access it.

MacEachren: "What isn't there yet is technology that's practical to use for everyday people who might not be technology experts."

That's Alan MacEachren, a geography professor and director of the GeoVISTA Center at Penn State. The center is working on hi-tech maps linked to computers that may make it easier for rescue workers. They could simply point to an area on the map, then ask the computer questions about the trajectory of a hurricane, for example, and the number of vulnerable people in its path.

(SOUND: hurricane, gale-force winds)

Geographic information systems, or GIS technology, would link all the information about the crisis via satellite and update itself continuously. MacEachren's team has developed a wireless, voice, and gesture-driven, real-time map system prototype, soon to be tested and refined in New York City. I'm Eric Phillips.

"Imagine That!" covers projects funded by the U.S. government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at

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