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There are usually several sources of various data on populations, housing, transport infrastructure, health services, schools, and so on. However, the data are scattered across agencies and may be in U S I N G D ATA A G A I N S T D I S A S T E R S : O V E R V I E W 19 incompatible formats. In the midst of an emergency, it is difficult for humanitarian agencies to gather, interpret, and apply these data. Investments in collecting the data outside the context of a disaster and standardizing the data presentation and data platforms are likely to pay dividends during an emergency.

Think Carefully about the Appropriate Basic Geographical Unit The appropriate level of geographical disaggregation in the data on emergency needs and supplies emerges as a key strategic choice in the case studies. There are likely to be trade-offs among data quality and timeliness; compatibility with the level of geographical disaggregation in the systems of other actors; adequacy of the database; and cost. Use Appropriate Technology Advances in information and communications technologies represent opportunities to create new solutions, including, for example, systems that allow remote units to input data directly in the system via cellular or satellite networks.

Not surprisingly, in the midst of the major emergencies, more immediate problems on the ground took priority over institutional questions and long-term sustainability. This is a key reason why a disaster information management system should be erected during the calmer periods outside the context of disaster. A system is much more likely to be effective during disasters and sustainable after a disaster if it has been developed and provided with a permanent institutional home and support structures in such a context.

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