Skip navigation
All Places > Public Safety > Blog > 2017 > August
2017

At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and working with the Homeland Infrastructure Foundation Level Data (HIFLD) Committee Chair and Federal GeoPlatform system owner, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has launched a dedicated website to provide Open Data in support of Hurricane Harvey.  This new site is publicly accessible and based on the Esri ArcGIS Open Data application:

 

HIFLD for Harvey – a sister Open Data site to HIFLD Open (https://hifld-geoplatform.opendata.arcgis.com/) – is dedicated to unifying the response and recovery data aggregation efforts for Hurricane Harvey.  HIFLD for Harvey, creates a single reliable source of relevant data for use by local, state, Federal, tribal, private sector, and community partners. It serves as a hub to aggregate and disseminate the best available relevant open data to support the massive mapping activities that are ongoing in support for Hurricane Harvey response and recovery. 

This site is being actively managed by Esri business partner Ardent MC. New data and information is being added as it becomes available and is rapidly validated.

If your organization has data to contribute, please send an email to HIFLD@hq.dhs.gov. Start using HIFLD for Harvey Today!  #HIFLD4Harvey

Image result for hifld data

The impacts of Hurricane Harvey are being felt far and wide. As the rain continues to fall, and flood waters rise, an army of citizen-rescuers are answering the call. They are bringing their boats to bear and are plunging into waist-deep waters to help those in their communities. While it’s not possible for all of us to lend a helping hand directly, those that know GIS can lend a hand from afar.

 

The need for expertise on the many “where” questions of a disaster continue to grow, answering such questions as

  • Where are the one-story homes that are about to be immersed?
  • Where are dry beds and shelters for those that are displaced?
  • What are the quickest and safest routes to evacuate the most people in the shortest amount of time?

 

As the government encourages citizens to help one another, the non-profit organization made up of mapping experts is answering the call. GISCorps, a program of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA), has been providing a range of mapping and disaster response services for more than 14 years worldwide.

 

GISCorps volunteers conduct most of their work remotely and nearly half of their work responding to disasters. These volunteers harness the power of the cloud-based ArcGIS Online platform for such tasks as data collection, data cleansing, and creating story maps and map galleries to communicate needs and impacts.

 

“GISCorps volunteers have been involved in almost every disaster since 2003,” says Shoreh Elhami, the founder of URISA’s GISCorps. “We have worked on Hurricane Katrina, the Asian tsunami, the cyclone in Burma, the Ebola epidemic, and many more.”

 

Volunteers gain the satisfaction of helping those in need, and there are many ancillary benefits.

 

“Many of our volunteers have said they learn more quickly from GISCorps experiences than from their day jobs,” said Elhami. “They get exposed to different projects that require different skills and tools, and that provides a valuable learning experience.”

 

GISCorps uses ArcGIS Online to spread the work among volunteers and to create a communication platform to share updates on unfolding events.

 

“Thanks to the backing from the Esri Disaster Response Program, we have a backend that supports the work of our volunteers,” said Elhami. “We can ingest and process imagery, and to digitize points of interest in a way that’s much easier than in the past. I’m really excited about putting our 5,000 volunteers to work doing a lot more.”

 

Applying to become a GISCorps volunteer can be done only online.

 

 

 

 

 

Hurricane Harvey, at one point a category 4 hurricane, has brought devastating amounts of rainfall with extensive damages to Texas and Louisiana. As Harvey continues its catastrophic path, Esri’s Disaster Response Program (DRP) is here to support you around the clock 24/7.

 

If you need support with additional software, data, or technical support you can request immediate assistance from the DRP.

 

The Hurricanes and Tropical Cyclones Overview map provides up to date information on the potential impact, precipitation, and path of Harvey.

 

 

Emergency management agencies are also using social media and crowd sourcing to gain insight on the situation. This Crowdsource Story Map helps responders and emergency managers gain insight into the situation on the ground.

 

 

The Tropical Strom Harvey: Current Conditions Application

This interactive web application features Hurricane Harvey tracking, traffic alerts, road closures, shelter locations, flood gauges and more.

 

Track and forecast the path of Harvey:

 

Stay up to date with traffic alerts and closures:

 

Locate a shelter location nearest you:

Analyze the current situation of flood gauges:

 

Analyze 72-hour precipitation forecast:

 

Follow the DRP on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news.

By Chris McIntosh, Director, National Government Industries, Esri; and Bob Greenberg, CEO, G&H International Services, Inc.

 

Imagine a small town that has just suffered a significant natural disaster. It is almost always the case that the town will need to reach out to other jurisdictions to get help in the form of people and resources to respond effectively to the incident. To prepare for this common scenario, emergency managers need to develop a response strategy that identifies the resources they need and reveals where they will face shortfalls. Many emergency managers today use the Threat Hazard Identification Risk Assessment (THIRA) process to do just that, but when they do, the result is often a paper report in a binder or a static digital document that they have to dig out during an emergency.

 

Many of those same emergency managers also have access to an ArcGIS mapping platform that enables them to obtain rapid situational awareness of what is occurring during an incident—in near real time. Configured to provide essential elements of information (EEI), the system helps them understand things like the location of power outages, road status, and shelter status—all of which are very useful for identifying necessary resources and deploying them (see the National Information Sharing Consortium's [NISC] guidance on EEI's.

 

Situational awareness is very important in emergency management. It allows personnel to quickly visualize and understand the impact of an incident, identify trends, and predict outcomes. This leads to more accurate assessments and saves time—the most precious of all resources.

 

Connecting this insight to the actual deployment of resources is where the Threat Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) process tends to stall. Even armed with the most modern situational awareness tools, logistics personnel often have to revert to the paper plan to identify and find the resources they need—a process that is very time-consuming—as they go back and forth between their map, their planning documents, and other systems. They lose precious minutes and hours in identifying the resources; finding the right contact; contacting the resource provider; determining availability; and, ultimately, deploying the resource.

 

What if they had all that information, available in real time, on one platform? It would allow them to instantaneously identify an incident, understand the situation, and find and deploy the appropriate resources. The key to doing that is the ability to operationalize a resource plan by integrating it with their situational awareness system. Esri's ArcGIS platform provides that ability.

 

The Mutual Aid Resource Planner (MARP) tool, developed by Esri partner G&H International Services on behalf of the First Responders Group (FRG) of the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, enables planners to develop more accurate plans by integrating additional geospatial hazard and risk information. They can also preidentify partners that will help provide aid and fill resource gaps. These capabilities, integrated with the ArcGIS platform—which provides emergency responders across jurisdictions with a visualization of the existing and emerging situation in real time—allow them to collaborate on identifying resources and assigning responsibilities.

 

Requirements for the MARP application were initially developed during the CAPSTONE-14 exercise conducted by the Central US Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC), where emergency planners and managers from eight states identified the need to extend the planning concept outlined by the THIRA process. What became clear during the exercise was the importance of both operationalizing the THIRA process and preidentifying the required resources in order to track their availability during an event.

 

With Esri's support, G&H provided technical assistance to the CUSEC states during the CAPSTONE-14 exercise and began working with Esri's ArcGIS platform to configure its templates and applications to provide those capabilities. MARP is empowered by the ArcGIS platform, which provides access to data from multiple sources across various disciplines and jurisdictions to help emergency managers make fast and well-informed decisions regarding resources.

 

MARP has been tested through several experiments by multiple levels of government agencies. This past January, the MARP capabilities were tested as part of the first experiment under the FRG's Flood Apex program in New Orleans. It was also used by Michigan and Ontario, Canada, to develop cross-border mutual aid plans during the CAUSE (Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment) IV Experiment in April 2016.

 

MARP allows agencies to develop a more efficient plan for dealing with the aftermath of catastrophic events. It provides a simple yet innovative template that makes it easy to collaborate and share data among different jurisdictions. Building a better plan will help to strengthen a community's preparedness and resiliency. MARP is available to members of NISC, an Esri-supported organization dedicated to improving information sharing for better emergency preparedness. Membership is free. For MARP training, visit http://nisconsortium.org/marp1.0/training/.

 

For further information, visit https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/news/2017/04/05/responder-news-mutual-aid-resource-planning-tool-improves.