Geography of Disasters and 

Emergency Management

Skills involved in this course:

Communication skills, Project Design, Project Management


Many people think that disasters such as earthquakes are far away from us in real life or it only happens once couple hundreds years. With learning more about how can we do when predictable and unpredictable disasters happen we can reduce the cost and pain as much as we can than know nothing.

During learning this course, I am also working as a GIS intern at State of Utah Emergency Operation center to help and assist GIS related problems for daily operation. One common disasters I am been working with during the internship is wildfires, even they don't burned in residential area that much in Utah but the smokes are harmful to people and FEMA need to spend a lot money to put up those fires during summer time. 

This is an introduction course for people who are interested in learning more about disasters and emergency management. During this course I learned the basic emergency management course at FEMA website to have a better understanding about emergency management.


After finished this course, I am able to :

1. Know the definitions and basic concepts about emergency management.

2. Know how government react to certain type of disasters and review historical disasters' documents.

3. Understand the process of emergency management and how local, county and state agencies involved in different type and different level of an emergency.

4. Review and research about a certain emergency that happened before, explain how the government react to it and how to improve the emergency management process for this disaster using GIS analysis skills and emergency management theories I learned from this course.

Project Introduction:


5/12/2008 in China, the second greatest earthquake that ever happened in Chinese history occurred in Wenchuan, Sichuan province which measured at 8.0 magnitude. The whole China and several of its neighborhood countries feel the tremors. 69,197 people died in this earthquake and 18,222 people were missing.

Below is the map created by USGS that shows the magnitude and range of the Wenchuan earthquake.

The rescue action implemented 90 minutes after the earthquake. The Ministry of Health sends 10 emergency medical teams Wenchuan. 50,000 troops and armed police went to the earthquake religion send by the Chengdu Military Region.


A “Level II emergency contingency plan” was created by the National Disaster Relief Commission that covers the major serious class of natural disasters.

The central government in Beijing send 2 military planes with 184 people on an earthquake emergency relief team immediately on May 12 to Wenchuan County.

Due to the information proved by the USGS, it’s unlikely to predict an earthquake, lots of scientists tried a lot of ways to predict the earthquake but none of it works. The only thing people can know about earthquake by now is the possibilities of an earthquake can happen in the future in a certain interval, but there’s no way to predict exactly when it will happen.

The counterpart support plan which helps 18 countries was published by state council in 2008 based on “one province to one affected county basis”.  ​

the new 1,000 communication center of the response team build in Sichuan province

The Chinese government does improve a lot after the Wenchuan earthquake happened. It’s the biggest disaster that happened in Chinese history after 1949, the founding of People’s Republic of China. The most interesting improvements that Chinese government made is setting up an incident command system with more local response team both online and in the field.


All those communication center formed a net that covers the whole Sichuan province, it’s a meaningful step that can be applied to the nationwide. Those communication center can be easy to access since the government rebuilds the whole damaged city in 2 years and the new urban planning map also get those communication center applied to their local evacuation plan. They can educate the public and monitor the potential disaster when there’s no emergency happen.


2008 Wenchuan Earthquake is the most painful disaster that happened in Chinese history, it’s an iconic memory for every Chinese people since the whole China can feel the shake when this earthquake happened, everyone remembers what they were doing when they feel the shake and how sad the people in Wenchuan.

Fortunately, we learned something from this earthquake before it’s too late. We develop a comprehensive emergency management and incident command system that allows people have better hope for their future.



© 2019 by Siwen Cheng