Skip navigation
All Places > Public Safety > Blog > 2018 > September
2018

FEMA has combined a number of applications that are part of the FEMA GeoPlatform to create the Hurricane Incident Journal. This story map provides relevant and up-to-date data and tools that provide spatial decision-making support to FEMA leadership. The journal is available to the general public to provide a greater understanding of storm events and a view into the federal information that comes together to inform disaster response.

 

 

Included in the Hurricane Incident Journal are:

  • Hurricane Dashboard for Surge Inundation – presents a dashboard view that details the population exposed to surge inundation
  • Hurricane Force Winds Dashboard – analysis of population within the wind threshold
  • Logistics Needs for Surge Inundation – an estimation of the resources needed to support the populations exposed to storm surge
  • Call Volume – an estimation of the number of callers and translator requirement based on surge inundation
  • Hazard Exposure – a model of community impacts weighted by forecasted flood depth, wind speed, and social vulnerability
  • Flood Extents – a hydrodynamic model that simulates flooding based on the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory RIFT model
  • Infrastructure – an interactive map to view the impacts on essential facilities (hospitals, schools, senior centers, etc.) based on wind speeds
  • Transportation –traffic reports from Waze updated every two minutes with Hurricane Evacuation Routes and fuel availability
  • Federal Support Disaster Declaration – a dashboard that shows the counties that have requested federal disaster response

 

In addition to the individual applications, the Hurricane Incident Journal contains dialogue about each map and links to further resources. The modeled damage assessments are based on flood depth grids and verified using satellite imagery. Wind data comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Satellite imagery and other remote sensing inputs are from NASA and the European Union’s Copernicus program. Weather data comes from the National Weather Service. Flooding models are informed by stream gauge sensor data feeds from the US Geological Survey. Additionally, these applications draw on data from joint field offices, disaster recovery centers, shelters, and other sources.

 

Esri’s geospatial cloud platform, ArcGIS , provides the means to deliver these lightweight applications. These dashboards and interactive maps incorporate an array of inputs to provide a quickly understandable common operational picture—condensing the time between data and decisions.

 

For more information on active hurricane response, please visit the Esri Disaster Response Program at www.esri.com/disaster

 

A new interactive story map provides a place to share photos from the 2018 hurricane season. People can quickly post photos of preparations and the impacts from this year’s storms. The photos appear on a map alongside projected storm paths, providing an on-the-ground perspective of these events as they unfold. Visitors to the map can zoom in to see the photos related to specific areas or can browse through all the images to get a broad overview of storms.

 

The story map is the work of the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS (NAPSG) and GIS Corps. NAPSG has compiled a number of helpful resources for GIS practitioners who are preparing for these events. GIS Corps volunteers are poised to assist communities by applying GIS skills to aid recovery efforts.

 

The app is designed to engage those on the ground in these areas as well as those bearing witness from afar. Participants are encouraged to upload images from social media channels that contain an identified location. The images and map provide a compelling interface to gain a greater understanding of 2018 hurricane damage at the ground level.

 

This map can also be found in the public apps gallery for the Esri Disaster Response Program - monitoring events 24/7 and here when you need it most. If your capacity has been exceeded and you need geospatial support, Request Assistance online today.

Next Generation 911, A Long-Distance Sprint 

 

By Mike King, Global Emergency Call Taking and Dispatch/FirstNet Industry Manager, Esri  

In 1980, a few days after graduating from the police academy, I responded to the homicide of a corrections officer named Bryan Pickett.[1] (Bryan graduated from my high school a year before me.) The only address information the 911 caller provided was, " . . .in Sullivan's Hollow." 

 

 

Pickett was found lying in the middle of the road with a gunshot wound to the head—his vehicle was still running. 

 

Then (40 years ago), we relied on the Polk Directory[2] for address information, but it rarely had place-names or aliases to help. If you were unfamiliar with your surroundings, finding the location became much more challenging.  

 

Pickett's killer was never officially identified or charged, and I often think about him, wondering if better location information could have reduced the time it took to get first responders to the scene. He probably wouldn't have survived the shooting, but his assailant might have been apprehended.

 

Location image: This 1980 image is courtesy of the Utah AGRC Open Data Portal. Using ArcGIS, the image was geolocated on a topographic map, and a swipe map of 2018 imagery, courtesy of Nearmap, was added. 

 

 

Scan the QR Code to view a web application on your mobile device.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] UTAP Cold Case image courtesy of the Utah Attorney General's Office.

[2] Weber County Polk Directory image, Digital Collections, Stewart Library, Weber State University.

 

 

 

After my law enforcement career, I was fortunate to join the Esri public safety team, a group of retired police, fire, emergency management, and national security commanders who maintain their passion for ensuring public safety. My focus has evolved to spending more time with the members of the emergency call-taking industry—the initiators of all public safety response.

 

As I have participated in discussions around the world on the Next Generation 911 (NG911) initiative, I marvel at how far we've come and how much still needs to be done. Migrating the antiquated analog systems of the past to powerful digital solutions that consume large amounts of data in real time is a daunting task, but it is a task worth doing. Providing first responders with authoritative address data they can follow and trust is paramount.

 

The promise of improved 911 caller location has been the focus of public safety telecommunicators, national trade organizations, and federal oversight agencies for a long time. Each collaborative effort brings increasing hope that we are making things better. In some arenas, the vision of "what could be" has now become the reality of "what is."

 

At Esri, we're working tirelessly to help our CAD/911 partners embrace geographic information system (GIS) capabilities that offer best practice architecture for address database creation and management. We're guiding agencies around the world as they migrate their 2D geographic data to 3D, preparatory to z-axis information coming to the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) center. Our easy-to-configure web applications are used globally, including on the FirstNet network.

 

Now, there's a game-changing way to access accurate smartphone device location and additional emergency data from Apple, Uber, other apps, and connected devices. Please join the experts from Esri, RapidSOS, and GeoComm as they discuss the RapidSOS NG911 Clearinghouse.  You can register here.

 

Just before my retirement, I read a quote by Theodore Roosevelt in the office of an assistant chief of police. Recently, I heard it referenced during the funeral of Senator John McCain. I think it fittingly applies to those of you who are trying to bring NG911 to fruition. I'll close with an excerpt from Roosevelt's speech, Citizenship in a Republic.[1]

 

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

 

Learn more about Esri's efforts in emergency call taking at go.esri.com/911 

 

Register for the NG911 device location webinar Accessing Location Information from Smartphone Devices.

 

Download the eBook on 5 Ways GIS Empowers Next Generation 911. 

 

[1] Citizenship in a Republic, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizenship_in_a_Republic.

Early September historically sees the most disaster damage in the US, because it’s the height of the hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin. In time for this busy season, FEMA has released Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) templates for Survey123 for ArcGIS. The templates streamline data collection on handheld devices and mark an ongoing digital transformation from traditional paper forms.

 

A PDA report is mandated by Congress in order to determine if disaster damages warrant a presidential major disaster declaration and the funds that come with it. The templates address one of the primary goals of FEMA’s new strategic plan—to reduce complexity—making it easier and quicker for communities and individuals to receive the assistance they need.

 

“We designed the survey to be easy for anyone to fill out,” said Erin Densford, Recovery Operations Officer, FEMA headquarters. “We know that state, local, tribal and territorial governments sometimes have to rely on people that have never done a damage assessment before, and the language on the survey is meant to be very straightforward.”

 

The PDA process starts at the local level where damage details are initially collected, shared, and validated by State, Tribal, and Territorial authorities. These entities generally have 30 days from the start of an incident to determine whether or not federal assistance in the form of FEMA Individual Assistance, Public Assistance or other federal programs may be necessary.

 

Many local authorities thankfully face disasters for the first time or go decades between events. For those new to the process or refreshing their understanding, the process is well-documented in a detailed manual. However, the level of detail is hard to process in the immediate aftermath of a disaster event.

 

“With the templates, you can look at the data schema and have a good sense of what we want within five or ten minutes,” Densford said. “It’s far faster than looking through the 60-page manual, which users can reference for clarification.”

 

The template approach has been in the works for some time. It has been tested in pilot programs with state and local authorities. Refinements have reached the point where it’s ready to be shared broadly with the emergency management community.

 

This process isn’t a great leap forward in time savings for individual assessments, but it greatly improves accuracy and overall reporting. In testing, it takes a bit more time than paper because the step-by-step form-based approach requires that each field be filled out for each assessment.  With this template approach, “We’re getting all the pieces of information that we hope to collect, whereas we had gaps in the paper-based process in the past,” Densford said.

 

This improved accuracy also relates to improved location details.

 

“We have used GPS for some time,” Densford said. “With the manual effort, it was easier to get a location wrong by incorrectly transposing long numbers of latitude and longitude which meant we weren’t able to create maps based on the data.”

 

With Survey123, location is automatically registered to the damage details and photos of the damage, making map-based reporting as easy as hitting a button.

 

Work is ongoing on streamlining the data flow from the data being collected in the templates to the Public Assistance grant program system (PA Grants Manager). This next step promises to speed the flow of funds needed to rebuild, repair or replace damaged infrastructure in impacted communities.

 

“We have priorities to reduce the complexity and deliver individual assistance quickly, and this tool speaks to both of those objectives,” Densford said. “We’re making the process more transparent and hopefully condensing the time it takes for a community to achieve recovery.”

 

Learn how to configure and optimize the FEMA Preliminary Damage Assessment templates using Survey123 in this GeoNet post.

 

By Mike Cox, Fire and EMS Industry Manager, Esri

 

The 38th Esri User Conference (Esri UC) was an incredible success. When nearly 18,000 Esri geographic information system (GIS) technology users gather for a week of learning, networking, and sharing ideas, the result can only benefit all involved. The content ranged from integrating data from “low earth orbit” satellites to dealing with a total solar eclipse “where the sun don't shine”.

This was my first User Conference since becoming an employee of Esri, and while I had attended the Esri UC previously as a user, my role this year provided a new perspective on the event. It was humbling to see the commitment of Esri personnel to our user community. Our only focus is to support our users, to see them succeed, and to serve. It is through this servant role that we see the incredible accomplishments of our users. For those of us in the public safety industry, these accomplishments mean saving lives, preserving property, and protecting the environment. The 2018 Esri UC had multiple examples of GIS leveraged to do just that—maintaining safe communities and protecting our neighbors.

For the public safety team, the event started with the National Security and Public Safety Summit (NSPSS) @ Esri UC. The theme this year was Prepare for the New Normal—explore new ways to overcome increasingly complex and unpredictable threats and hazards. This two-day preconference event had its largest attendance to date. Over 450 defense, law enforcement, fire, emergency medical, and emergency management personnel gathered for presentations about the successful use of GIS.

These NSPSS presentations covered topics including responding to wildfires, managing significant events such as the Super Bowl and the NCAA Final Four tournament, and sharing data with multiple agencies to coordinate preparations for and response to disasters. Local, state, federal, and international agencies demonstrated how GIS is used to prevent, assess, and respond to incidents. As an example, the European Union (EU) Satellite Centre presented on the use of satellite data to provide geospatial intelligence to a wide range of users within the European External Action Service and the EU member states. This presentation showcased the use of Esri technology, ranging from analysis performed on the desktop to the services being delivered through portals, from the management of the migration crisis to the support for the dismantlement of chemical weapons depots in Syria.

The theme of this year's Esri User Conference was Inspiring What's Next. As always, the main event began with Jack Dangermond presenting his vision at the Plenary Session. While his vision included where the technology is going, Dangermond started the week by having all in attendance consider what's next for our planet. What does that mean to individuals, families, and our communities? We live in a complex, interconnected world, and we can use geography to connect us. This constantly changing world creates many challenges—climate change, drought, deforestation, pollution, increasing urbanization, and many others. These challenges require us to fundamentally understand our world, as understanding precedes action. The Science of Where provides the framework and process for applying geographic knowledge that we can use to change our world. You can watch the 2018 Esri UC Plenary Session https://www.esri.com/videos/?event=594d5ac051b03b9718bde52b&title=Esri%20User%20Conference if you missed it earlier.

The Plenary Session maintained the Inspiring What's Next theme with a discussion of the emerging capabilities for the Esri platform. These capabilities include augmented reality, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. The increasing use of embedded devices in vehicles, clothing, and our environment—all with a geographic component—will impact our lives every day. With 3D capabilities providing a better understanding of our environment, first responders can—in seconds—identify the location of a person needing help, such as which floor in the building the person is in. GIS removes the technological complexities to allow us to solve real problems easily.

The latest release of ArcGIS Pro can help you visualize, edit, and analyze your geographic data in both 2D and 3D, providing full context to the area you are mapping. You are able to easily share your work—from mobile web scenes to paper maps—creating tailored experiences for different types of users. ArcGIS Pro 2.2 has many new features that are exciting, particularly when it comes to editing in 2D and 3D; performing quick visibility analysis; and sharing your 3D content on any device, anywhere, anytime.

Esri's ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World continues to evolve and provide multiple data sources for our users. One example of Living Atlas data is Sentinel-2 imagery for the entire planet. Each place on earth is reimaged every five days, and the data is updated daily. This service provides imagery and infrared views. The rich content of the Living Atlas is brought together in the Earth Systems Monitor. The monitor allows you to view climate data, real-time weather conditions, and urban development as well as a global human footprint map. You can review some of the Sentinel-2 capabilities at sentinel2explorer.esri.com/.

Thousands of attendees from over 140 countries gathered in the San Diego Convention Center to learn how the innovative use of GIS addresses the issues impacting our planet. Examples of this work included the following:

  • Environmental modeling and assessment
  • Planning and urban design
  • Engineering and public works
  • Utilities and telecommunications
  • Public health and demographics
  • Public safety and security
  • Portal for ArcGIS, open data, and citizen engagement
  • Cartography
  • Story maps

The week continued with multiple technical workshops on subjects ranging from basic GIS capabilities to in-depth data analysis and application use. These technical workshops can be reviewed at esri.com/videos/watch?playlistid=PLaPDDLTCmy4Z27yCYMJkyxj3WHtFBW08l&title=2018-esri-uc-technical-workshops.

One of the event highlights for Esri staff is the direct interaction and support we provided to our customers. For the public safety team, these exchanges primarily occurred in the Public Safety Neighborhood at the GIS Solutions Expo. This area allowed us to provide one-on-one demos, answer questions about solutions, and demonstrate solutions from our partners. There were also comprehensive presentations by our skilled staff in the Operations Platform for Safety/Security (OPS) Center Theater.

The Esri UC always focuses on our user community and its success. Throughout the conference, attendees could join other users during their presentations about the use of GIS. One of the most interesting sessions I was able to attend was about one community's effort to deal with "Where the Sun Don't Shine"! Trich Van Wagner, GIS manager for Bonneville County, Idaho provided an extremely entertaining presentation about how the county used GIS to manage the influx of visitors in the Idaho Falls area for the August 21, 2017, solar eclipse. Hundreds of thousands of people across the nation were vying for the best viewing spot, impacting localities across the nation.

Van Wagner and Bonneville County staff leveraged GIS to create incident maps and web apps for local government use. They mapped campsites and emergency response resources, and they used mobile applications such as Survey123 for ArcGIS and the ArcGIS  environment to provide real-time incident data. This data was analyzed and communicated via story maps and dashboards. This presentation clearly demonstrated how The Science of Where helped provide a safe and efficient response to this significant special event.

Dangermond clearly stated that the goal of this year's Esri User Conference is unchanged from 38 years ago: to be together, learn from each other, share knowledge, and—from time to time—have a little fun. By all indications, we met this goal in 2018.

Please join us at the 2019 Esri User Conference, to be held July 8–12, 2019, at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California. esri.com/en-us/about/events/uc/overview

 

By Mike Cox, Fire and EMS Industry Manager, Esri

 

The Thomas Fire was a wildfire that affected Ventura County, California, in December 2017. It burned approximately 281,893 acres becoming one of the largest wildfires in modern California history. The Thomas Fire caused two fatalities and destroyed at least 1,063 structures while damaging 280 others. The incident required the evacuation of over 90,000 residents.

The Ventura County Fire Department covers a county of 850 square miles with 950,000 residents. The fire department is innovating the use of technology in response to wildland-urban interface incidents. Ventura County has had some of the largest fires in California history and regularly responds regionally to support its neighbors. The fire department coordinates this response with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) and the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) at the state level.

 

The capabilities of agencies responding to these incidents are the best they have ever been. Despite these capabilities, this fire was one of the largest in state history. Environmental conditions, such as weather and fuel management, drive the occurrence and severity of these incidents. The intense Santa Ana winds fueled the Thomas Fire. The increase in the severity and number of these incidents requires the use of technology to improve the effectiveness of the response.

The Ventura County Fire Department deployed field observers to provide an initial assessment and an incident map and to begin to develop a common operating picture of the fire. The weather conditions preceding the Thomas Fire indicated the need for increased preparedness. Ventura had just deployed resources to other wildland incidents prior to the Thomas Fire. When the fire grew at such a fast rate, nearly all available resources were committed to rescue and evacuation of residents. This hindered the ability of field observers to perform the initial assessment, delaying the development of the common operating picture.

 

The county emergency operations center was assisting with the management of evacuations including the use of a reverse 911 system. In the midst of this operation, the area lost power complicating the evacuation effort. Fire department personnel were estimating the fire perimeter, and this information was being communicated through traditional and social media.

 

Examples of the mapping products used during the Thomas Fire response are shown below. These products include web and mobile based applications.

Ventura County Fire Department personnel used mobile devices to collect data in the field and transmit that data in real time. Frontline personnel viewed and updated the map from a mobile device.

Cal Fire's Situation Unit assumed the responsibility of developing the incident map. As the fire progressed into multiple operational periods, data from aerial reconnaissance, remote cameras, and Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite was included in the mapping. This data, developed with Esri partner Intterra Group, was communicated to tactical units through mobile devices, shared with the emergency operations center, and sent to outside responding agencies.

The importance of using a single geographic information system (GIS) platform to develop and share this data with partner agencies was evident during the Thomas Fire. All map products were updated seamlessly, providing a current view to all stakeholders.

Lessons learned from this significant incident included developing policy and practice to share information electronically. The traditional methods are effective, but paper-based information products can prove to be difficult to maintain with real-time data during a fire incident. The fire ground changes rapidly under extreme weather conditions, so field units must have the most up-to-date information. The development of a common operating picture, the collection of incident intelligence, and the communication of this data must be a priority.

 

The planning cycle must be supported with accurate data. In an incident such as the Thomas Fire, a large number of resources had to be deployed rapidly. These resources needed to receive data in real time as they are deployed. The use of real-time data, GIS, and a common operating picture provided a more efficient, effective, and safer deployment of personnel and resources.

 

For additional information, please contact Esri publicsafetyinfo@esri.com or the representatives listed below:

Vaughan Miller, Deputy Chief, Ventura County Fire Department, vaughan.miller@ventura.org

Mike Cox, Fire and EMS Industry Manager, Esri, mike_cox@esri.com

David Blankinship, Cofounder, Intterra Group, david.blankinship@intterragroup.com