Resilient Communities

Bouncing Back Faster with GIS

Communities around the world are facing increasing challenges from natural and man-made disasters. Resilient communities bounce back faster. Leaders of these communities anticipate future trends and enact policies that support rapid response during times of need. Whether they face challenges like drought or flooding, economic collapse, or a health epidemic, resilient communities are using GIS technology to prepare ahead of time, operate effectively during events, and recover quickly.

"The planet is slowly going to keep warming for a long time to come. So we’re going to have to stop looking at these disasters as something to wait for; we've got to start looking at these disasters as something to prepare for, to anticipate, to start building new infrastructure, to start having new plans, to recalibrate the baseline that we're working off of."

President Barack Obama

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When President Obama visited Kotzebue, Alaska on Sept. 3, 2015, he was the first sitting President to travel inside the Arctic Circle. Raising awareness about climate change was the reason for the visit, and effort continues with the first ever released two-meter resolution DEMs of the entire state of Alaska. The data collected, including elevation data and in-depth geospatial analyses, is accessible to the public, government and scientific communities through several story maps and apps that are available on ArcGIS Online.

Health and Human Services

Resilient communities use GIS to prepare. They use maps to understand the best places to build clinics and hospitals that serve changing and aging populations as well as how to prepare for potential outbreaks. During extreme weather events like heat waves, governments use GIS to determine community needs such as where to set up cooling stations.


In line with President Obama's Climate Action Plan, governments, nonprofits, and businesses are using geospatial analysis to help people see how they can prepare for and respond to climate-driven events including droughts, intense storms, flooding, and wildfires. Organizations are also using GIS to find ways to generate more clean energy, develop sustainable urban and transportation plans, and increase energy efficiency. GIS, combined with strong leadership, is helping protect the health of people, the economy, and natural resources.

Public Safety

Resilient communities have policies and procedures in place to ensure the safety of citizens. GIS helps governments inform the public of risks in their areas so they can see how threats could impact them. Apps enable people to create virtual neighborhood watches. When crime or disaster strikes, GIS is key to knowing where to send personnel including police, fire, and other law enforcement officials.


GIS is changing the way people respond to disasters. Before floods, fires, and storms happen, GIS can show leaders where to take preventive measures. Health officials and hospital administrators use location analytics to understand the best places for clinics and hospitals. After an event, GIS helps response organizations see where need is greatest and where to quickly deploy teams and deliver aid. Citizen-generated apps help people see where they can donate time and resources.


The economy is constantly in flux and increasingly tied to global events. During the recent economic recovery, resilient communities used GIS to understand the changing landscape and help areas hardest hit by the downturn. Moving forward, economic development departments use innovative approaches to help local business owners find the best ways to market their products and the right places to set up shop.

Transportation and Infrastructure

Transportation officials use GIS to find the best ways to lessen commute times and reduce carbon emissions. GIS analysis shows existing transportation infrastructure, areas of high demand, air quality, and opportunities for improvement. In a map, it becomes clear how a city can support growing populations with multimodal options that effectively move people, promote economic development, and clear the air. GIS applications can also connect citizens with others who, for example, want to carpool or simply show them the best paths for biking, walking, or taking public transit to work instead of driving.


The effects of a changing climate will have significant impact on the world’s food supply and producers need tools like GIS to better understand and adapt to these risks. To grow crops and raise animals, farmers depend on specific climate conditions. As these change, GIS helps growers understand conditions, impacts, and how to adapt.