Emergency response after 9/11: The potential of real-time 3D GIS for quick emergency response in micro-spatial environments

Mei Po Kwan, Jiyeong Lee

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

278 Scopus citations


Terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, not only affected multi-level structures in urban areas but also impacted upon their immediate environment at the street level in ways that considerably reduced the speed of emergency response. In this paper, we examine the potential of using real-time 3D GIS for the development and implementation of GIS-based intelligent emergency response systems (GIERS) that aim at facilitating quick emergency response to terrorist attacks on multi-level structures (e.g. multi-story office buildings). We outline a system architecture and a network data model that integrates the ground transportation system with the internal conduits within multi-level structures into a navigable 3D GIS. We examine important implementation issues of GIERS, especially the need for wireless and mobile deployment. Important decision support functionalities of GIERS are also explored with particular reference to the application of network-based shortest path algorithms. Finally, we present the results of an experimental implementation of an integrated 3D network data model using a GIS database of Franklin County, Ohio (USA). Our study shows that response delay within multi-level structures can be much longer than delays incurred on the ground transportation system, and GIERS have the potential for considerably reducing these delays.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
Specialist publicationComputers, Environment and Urban Systems
StatePublished - Mar 2005


  • 3D GIS
  • Emergency response
  • Intelligent GIS
  • Micro-spatial environments
  • Spatial decision support systems


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