GIS Decision Making Exercise - Targeting Effective Earthquake Relief in Sumatra

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This decision making exercise is based on a real aid response which took place following a devastating earthquake in Sumatra during 2009. The activities make use of acetate sheets to simulate GIS layers and as such are suitable for use in any classroom.

Further information about MapAction's response to the Sumatran earthquake is available on their website. Thanks to Philip Moore at MapAction for providing these resources. All materials on this page ©

Sumatra Earthquake 2009

At approximately 5:00pm on 30 September 2009, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck just offshore of the town of Padang in Sumatra, Indonesia. The earthquake toppled buildings and started many landslides, smashing homes and swallowing up entire villages.

The following day, as rescue workers arrived and residents tried their best to dig out and help the survivors, another earthquake with a magnitude of 6.6 struck less than 1,000 km south of the original epicentre. In addition, both quakes had at least one aftershock greater than 5.0.

Over 1,000 people are known to have died with an additional 3,000 still missing.

GIS Decision Making Exercise

These tasks are based upon the real aid response by MapAction and other organisations to this earthquake in Western Sumatra. They are suitable for teams of up to four students, Key Stages 3 to 5.

Background resources

Images of the area from the helicopter


You can see from these images that places to land are in short supply.

Video of helicopter landing supplies

Exercise: Getting relief supplies to earthquake victims

Student resources:

Task Sheet (PDF, 239k)
Sumatra GIS Overlays (Zip, 2.4M)

Tasks for the teacher to set up the exercise:

  1. Print all the overlays onto A4 transparency/acetate. You will need one set for four students.
  2. Print one task sheet per team of 4 students.

Your students can then use these separate layers of data to create information which they can analyse to understand the conditions on the ground and make effective decisions about targeting relief.

Teacher's Answers (PDF, 37k)

Donate to MapAction

MapAction is a registered charity which uses GPS, satellite communications, GIS and personal observation to provide a mapping information service at the scene of any major disaster. The maps are freely distributed to relief agencies and are available for teachers on the MapAction website.

John Lyon, the GA's Programme Director, will be raising money MapAction at this year's Virgin London Marathon. You can find out more and sponsor John on his JustGiving page.

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