Shortly after the December 2004 tsunami, we posted about the ICSMD -- the International Charter: Space and Major Disasters -- a treaty facilitating access to satellite information in the event of a natural or human-caused disaster. Most of the major space-faring states are party to the charter, which makes it possible for nations without access to their own satellites to have up-to-the-minute images and maps of affected disaster zones. The charter was called upon again after the Kashmir earthquake earlier this month; the European Space Agency has now published a detailed description of the materials and access the regional governments received through the ICSMD.
The first maps of the affected region were produced using archived satellite data within 24 hours of the disaster. They were made available to search and rescue teams directly in the field the following day via the NGO Télécoms Sans Frontières who were on the scene to set up a satellite-based communications infrastructure so the maps could be downloaded for printing and distribution.
[...] "Up-to-date mapping of roads and buildings, showing houses both within villages and dispersed in the countryside creates a very good product for carrying out rescue missions. Furthermore, damage maps derived from optical imagery have been very useful in charting landslide impacts."
Access to ICSMD data is one reason why it's important for relief workers to have access to data and telecommunications equipment. The Net.Relief.Kit is an example of how such access can be made available in a rugged, reliable manner. The Mobile Power Station, discussed earlier this month, is a useful complement to the Net.Relief.Kit, providing enough power for the telecommunications network and other relief systems (such as water purification and medical facilities.