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A Database Driven Initial Ontology for Crisis, Tragedy, and Recovery
Sheetz, Steven D.
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Many databases and supporting software have been developed to track the occurrences of natural disasters, manmade disasters, and combinations of the two. Each of the databases developed in this context, define their own representations of a disaster that describe the nature of the disaster and the data elements to be tracked for each type of disaster. The elements selected are not the same for the different databases, yet they are substantively similar. One capability common to many ontology development efforts is to describe data from diverse sources. Thus, we began our ontology development process by identifying several existing databases currently tracking disasters and derived the "ontology in situ" of their database. That is, we identified how the designers of the databases classify the types of disasters in their systems. We then merged these individual ontologies to identify an ontology that includes all of the classifications from the databases. Several aspects of disasters from the databases were highly consistent and therefore fit well together, e.g., the types of natural disasters, while others, e.g., geographic descriptions, were idiosyncratic and do not fit together seamlessly. The resulting ontology consists of 185 elements and has the potential to support data sharing/aggregation across the databases considered.