Satellite data tracks the movement of oil during the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010Credit: NASA
Satellite data tracks the movement of oil during the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010

Job Profile

Disaster Response Coordinator

Satellite technology is increasingly becoming critical to disaster response coordination, not only can it be used to monitor how areas have been affected and where aid is most needed, it is also invaluable for communications, vital for the success of relief efforts.

With nearly 400 natural disasters this century from earthquakes to floods, wildfires, and droughts, satellite imagery has become an essential and in some cases the only source of information for what is happening on the ground. Not only does this improve the quality of the short term aid that can be provided, it is also useful in the long term reconstruction of an area and aid risk reduction. The expected increase of extreme weather events in the future only further compounds the need for this service.

Satellite technology is becoming more and more integral in disaster response operations, greatly decreasing response times, providing more detailed and accurate information to response coordinators and, most importantly, allowing for effective communication between coordinators and relief workers. This is achieved through the use of satellite imagery and remote sensing, as well as rapidly deployable satellite-based communication systems.

Along with its use in response efforts, as satellite technology improves, remote sensing can be used to monitor the earth to identify potential natural disasters in advance of their occurrence, allowing for advance planning to reduce loss of life and damage to infrastructure, making this use of space-based data invaluable.

Skills of a Disaster Response Coordinator

  • Data analysis and computing skills
  • Strategic and logical proficiency
  • Management and leadership skills
  • Ability to work well under pressure, short notice, and short deadlines
  • Ability to adapt to new problems
  • Crisis management 
  • Strong teamwork and communication skills

Routes into Disaster Response Coordination

There is no specific route you have to have taken to pursue a career in disaster response coordination, pursuing a degree in geography, geology, physics, maths or any other related field would give you a good start. You are now increasingly able to pursue a Master’s degree in disaster response, or a post-graduate diploma.

A background knowledge in remote sensing, data analysis software, or satellite communications would be advantageous depending on the area of disaster response you would like to be involved in. 


Emma Collier

Emma studies Physics with Astronomy at the University of Southampton.

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