Geo Information in Disaster Situations – University of Copenhagen

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Master of Disaster Management > Short Courses > Geo Information in Dis...

Geo Information in Disaster Situations

An emergency becomes a disaster when it exceeds the capability of the local resources to manage it. With ever increasing population and housing densities, the world continues to experience ever increasing danger and damages from natural and manmade disasters. Deaths, injuries, and loss of property will increase around the world due to disasters, unless changes are made in the manner we respond to disasters. Effective disaster management and response demand rapid utilization of information and data from many sources. Visualization and spatial applications are critical during pre and post-disaster management and response. The ability to seamlessly integrate and distribute digital data into spatially explicit forms for situation, rapid assessment and analysis during and after a disaster remains a challenge.

To meet this challenge UNOSAT is offering a course on integrated approach to how info management and sharing is enhanced by use of GIS tools in disaster situations. The GIS database can be accessed for damage assessment or to locate critical infrastructure. To get an overview of the disaster situation it is crucial for disaster managers to be equipped with these basic tools.

On completion of the course, students will be able to critically analyze the prerequisites and challenges for effective situation, rapid maps and preliminary damage assessments. This could include identifying, collecting, preparing, analyzing and creating maps which will match the needs arising from anticipated future disasters.

Map as published by UNOSAT on building damage assessment after 2010 Haiti earthquake.


This course is offered by UNITAR/UNOSAT on the basis of a joint agreement with Copenhagen School of Global Health, University of Copenhagen as part of the programme Master of Disaster Management.

The course takes place at the ICRC's ECOGIA Training Center in Geneva, Switzerland.

Course coordinator:

Ass. Prof. Peter Kjær Mackie Jensen


This is an optional advanced course in the Master of Disaster Management programme.


13 - 30 April 2015.
Full time lectures and practical exercises in the GIS lab. The course includes a few days of individual or group study. There will also be visit field visits to various UN organizations in and around Geneva.

ECTS credits:





The aim of the course is to prepare the students so that they are able to work with basic GIS tools in preparation of situation maps.

At the end of the course the students must:

  • understand the role of Geo information in the response phase of a disaster

  • be able to collect various disaster related information including GIS

  • be able to use basic GIS tools to prepare situation maps

  • be able to do a preliminary damage assessment after a disaster based on the available spatial information

  • be able to collect GIS information from web and prepare, analyze and produce maps for a disaster situation


The course is focused on providing insight into various tools available in GIS for situation mapping. Focus is given to understand the concept of GIS and its integration in disaster situations. A central part of the course is the case which involves collecting information and GIS data from web sources, as well as preparing, analyzing and creating situation maps for a disaster prone city. Hands-on experience with the field data collection tools like GPS and PDA will also be part of the course. The students will work with the case throughout the course.

TropEd accreditation:



Students will be given a UN certificate from UNITAR on successful completion of the course.

Assessment Procedures:

Grading according to the Danish 7-scale - internal evaluation.

The examination is based upon assessment of a written individual report accompanied with presentable maps in which the students present their GIS skills for situation mapping in a given case, as well as their reflections around issues raised by the course management regarding the process. Parts of the report can be written in cooperation with other students that belong to the same case group.


It is recommended that the students taking the course are familiar with Microsoft Excel. It is an advantage, but not a prerequisite, that the students have prior knowledge on GIS applications, AutoCAD or similar software.

Class Size:

The number of participants is limited to 8. This course may be cancelled if there are less than 4 participants.