Simplifying and Accelerating Disaster Recovery and Damage Assessment

Quick Summary

On March 11, 2011 a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck northeastern Japan, taking the lives of more than 15,000 people, leaving nearly 8,000 missing, displacing 450,000 more and damaging in excess of $300 billion worth of property. Adding to the unprecedented scope of these natural disasters was the compromise of the multi-reactor Fukushima nuclear plant complex, which released radiation necessitating evacuation of the surrounding area. Once the immediate challenges of search and rescue were accomplished, Japanese federal, prefectural and local governments shifted their attention to recovery and damage assessment efforts.

The Challenge

As part of the recovery efforts, the governments needed a way to rapidly disseminate, update and share information to determine which buildings and homes were damaged — and to what degree — so that property owners could receive government-issued disaster victim certificates. Once the certificates were issued, compensation could be made to property owners and reconstruction could begin. Complicating matters was the inability to physically enter the nuclear evacuation zone to conduct on-the-ground inspection of property damage. Due to the urgency of the disaster, the maps needed to be rapidly produced and easily distributed and updated.

The Solution

Hitachi Solutions, Ltd., the TerraGo distributor in Japan and East Asia and a joint development partner, proposed that damage assessment could be simplified and accomplished much more quickly by utilizing pre- and post- March 11 maps and satellite imagery combined with property boundary information. Hitachi turned to TerraGo for its geospatial collaboration software and GeoPDF® solutions to produce a map atlas that would cover more than 600 square miles affected by the disaster in the Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. Using TerraGo, Hitachi Solutions, Ltd. created 38,501 GeoPDF maps and combined them into 42 map books. The GeoPDF atlas maps were comprised of three layers: residential cadaster maps from before the earthquake, post-disaster SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) flood estimate data and satellite imaging.

The Results

Using TerraGo, Hitachi created the map atlas in just two days and then donated it to the Japanese Cabinet office, which leveraged the atlas to distribute maps on DVDs and USB drives to the respective prefectural and local governments. Assessors were then able to confirm the condition of affected areas by comparing the different map layers and utilizing geographical coordinates when adding information and images to each location.

Certification of property damage, which had previously required confirmation on site, could now be carried out much more quickly through the comparison of residential maps containing homeowners’ names and post-disaster satellite images.

By the end of May 2011, approximately 150,000 of the 180,000 applications for disaster victim certificates had been processed with GeoPDF maps playing a critical role. In the Fukushima nuclear evacuation zone, where on- the-ground inspections were not possible, 183 property owners received the Risai Shomeisho disaster victim certificates exclusively on the basis of the GeoPDF satellite imagery maps.