Haiti earthquake: The role of geospatial intelligence during response
Within the first two days of the Haiti earthquake, they produced assessments of damage to critical infrastructure and more
By Liam O’Brien, faculty member, Intelligence Studies at American Military University
Six years ago on January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti. The devastation was extensive: It destroyed 75 percent of the nation’s schools as well as government offices, medical buildings, and other public infrastructure. More than 1.5 million people were displaced from their homes, and more than 220,000 people died and 300,000 were injured.
Role of NGA
Within hours of the Haiti earthquake, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) set up a Crisis Action Team (CAT) and consolidated response oversight for geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) efforts. The CAT worked to ensure that all geospatial intelligence efforts conducted by NGA, as well as the greater National System for Geospatial Intelligence and the Allied System for Geospatial Intelligence, were coordinated and aligned to provide geospatial intelligence analytics and services in an integrated, collaborative, and effective manner.
NGA staff in St. Louis and Washington, D.C., along with the NGA support teams at the U.S. Southern Command, helped provide immediate assessments. Within the first two days of the Haiti earthquake, they produced assessments of damage to critical infrastructure, conducted optimal travel-routes analysis for first responders, and provided a variety of up-to-date situational awareness products using a combination of government satellite imagery, commercial imagery (much of it provided at no cost by GeoEye and Digital Globe under the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters), and geospatial data.