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Esri Contributor

 By Mike King

Director, Emergency Communications Solutions – Esri

 

I’m pleased to announce the release of several public safety solutions by Esri. These solutions are built for first responders and public safety personnel. Some of them are included with the new release of ArcGIS Pro 2.5 and anyone who works with GIS technology should give them careful consideration. 

 

For example, the new Address Data Management solution is a configuration of ArcGIS Pro that can be used by mapping technicians to maintain an inventory of road center-lines, valid road names, site addresses, and related mailing addresses. It comes after many months of hard work and includes recommendations from the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and the U.S. Postal Service. This solution gives database managers step-by-step instructions and sample data to help them in transitioning older databases to this newly updated format. You can learn more about this updated solution by watching our webinar titled, “GIS Focus for PSAPs in 2020.”

 

To compliment this free offering, the Address Field Operations solution provides Esri license holders a collection of maps and apps that can be used to crowd-source missing address information, manage address field operations, and collect address information while in the field.

As we continue our focus on migrating 2D data to 3D, our emphasis turns to visualizing z-axis information (elevation) on maps, mobile data terminals, smartphones, dispatch screens and command/control center video walls.

The Local Government 3D Basemaps provide tools and workflows to add an extract building footprint which uses LIDAR to create building footprints and shows ground and building class codes when creating elevation surfaces, shows roof slopes, vegetation and other components.

 

Emergency managers can benefit from the Flood Impact Analysis solution, a configuration of ArcGIS Pro that can be used to develop flooding scenarios and visualize the impact of flooding. The Road Network Data Management solution provides a configuration that can be used to maintain an inventory of public roads, road intersections, and physical road characteristics (such as speed limit, functional class, lane width, and number of lanes). Finally the Transit Safety solution, a collection of maps and apps that can be used by transit safety staff to document safety issues and manage corrective actions or mitigation activities.

 

I’m excited about the enhancement that have been made to the Crime Analysis Toolbar solution which organizes existing tools for crime analysis workflows. It provides several new tools that support data management, tactical and strategic analysis, investigative analysis, and information sharing needs.

 

In closing, I would like to mention this new enhancement for firefighters, the Target Hazard Analysis solution which can be used to identify properties and buildings that could result in a loss of life, or have a negative impact on the community if a fire were to occur.

 

I encourage you to look these over and see if they can help you in your public safety mission. You can learn more about Esri and Public Safety or email me at: mking@esri.com.

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New Contributor III

By Mike King, Director of Emergency Communications – Esri

Twitter @printcop

In July of this year, public safety professionals from around the world descended on San Diego, California to attend Esri’s 4-day National Security and Public Safety Summit. Over 700 commanders and staff came together to share the challenges and successes they’ve had while protecting over the past year.
 
As the conference began, I stood in awe, hand over heart, as the flag of the United States was presented. I listened intently as our national anthem was powerfully sung.  I felt a sense of gratitude at the reverence displayed by our many international colleagues and government leaders in attendance.
 
During a “moment of silence” for those who had lost their lives in the line of duty last year, my mind raced back to personal friends who died in the line of duty. Their deaths and the accompanying heartache felt by comrades and loved ones suddenly raced back and I found myself stirred with deep emotion. I could see the faces of many of the attendees, and they too seemed to be humbly honoring those great heroes from around the world.
 
Once the summit was underway, I saw police officers, firefighters and emergency managers sitting side-by-side, interacting with each other, both during and in-between sessions. Their common mission of public protection powerfully eliminated preconceived misconceptions and personal biases. Together, they were learning from each other, embracing commonalities and solving problems.
 
I marveled at the great work being done globally, like the work of the Lebanese Red Cross who adopted a new GIS strategy to improve ambulance response times.  These efforts are now saving lives and our colleagues in Lebanon are leveraging that investment to improve their mobile web applications for improved data collection and information sharing.

Lebanese RedCross at Esri
 
The summit provided examples of real-world, national security and public safety challenges, like those shared by CEO Brian Fontes of NENA, the National Emergency Number Association. Fontes shared NENA’s newly created national PSAP Registry portal, designed to spatially show all public safety answering points (command & control centers). The Registry will support many of the next generation call-taking efforts.

CEO Brian Fontes of NENA at Esri


 
Other presentations included how U.S. Customs and Border Protection is saving lives through the Missing Migrant Program. This program was designed to save lives along the 4,200 square miles of the Rio Grande Valley and evidence shows that it’s working. 

US Border Patrol

Richard Reed of the FirstNet Authority shared how GIS is used in the rollout of the
first voice and data broadband network dedicated to first-responders and Colonel Volker Kozok showed how the German Armed Forces are using GIS to combat hybrid warfare.
German Armed Forces

 
At one point, I found myself smiling as I reflected on what I was witnessing. It was a true “coming together” of several life-saving disciplines and it included all of the fun-loving banter that exists between first-responders.

 
My personal example goes like this (and sounds like a broken record) as several old firefighter friends approached me with the same humor I’ve heard for 40 years, saying, “Hey King, if you could have scored two more points on your public safety exam, you could have been a fireman too!”  Not to be outdone, and in true form to my law enforcement brotherhood, I simply responded with some of the many reasons why law enforcement is a more noble career, and why we always won the town celebration tug-o’-wars – not just by brawn… but also our brilliance!

Mike King and John Beck at Esri
 
The National Security and Public Safety Summit offered everyone in attendance with a unique balance between visionary leader keynotes, forward-thinking presentations and networking opportunities where attendees could learn about the rapid advances that are occurring globally, including how GIS is influencing and empowering first-responders. Let's continue the conversation in this GeoNet discussion, h
ow will you work to build resilience and collaborate in the new normal?


We want to thank our generous sponsors of the summit which include our gold sponsors: GeoComm, Juvare, Microsoft, and RapidDeploy; and our silver sponsors: BCS, FirstNet, HERE Technologies, and IBM.  If you missed this year’s summit, we will release the proceedings in the coming weeks. Please plan to join us next year at the National Security and Public Safety Summit on July 11-14, 2020 in San Diego. Those registered can also attend the first two days of the Esri International User Conference where more than 19,000 professionals from around the world come together. 

 

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Occasional Contributor II

An important aspect about Emergency Management following Recovery is that lessons learned from the Response and Recovery actions inform Mitigation and Preparedness actions.  

Understanding Flooding from a torrential downpour or some other upstream event uses a different set of modelling capabilities than quick-and-dirty calculations to get immediate answers during disaster response.  When you have time, and you're exploring deeper analysis capabilities to predict what-if flooding scenarios in your jurisdiction, consider using this lesson to more deeply understand this desktop analytical workflow using ArcGIS Pro.  

In these lessons, you'll create the unit hydrographs for an outlet on the downstream end of the Little River. First, you'll prepare elevation data and use it to determine the watershed area for the outlet. Based on your watershed and terrain data, you'll create a velocity field, which determines how fast water tends to move in your study area. Using this velocity field, you'll create an isochrone map, which assesses the time it takes for water to travel to the outlet from anywhere in the watershed. Lastly, you'll use the isochrone map to derive a unit hydrograph and interpret what it says about the potential for floods in Stowe.

Predict Floods with Unit Hydrographs | Learn ArcGIS 

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Esri Contributor

Check out the latest blog from Ryan Lanclos, Director of Public Safety Industry Solutions. This is the second of two stories about how Alabama responded to the deadly twisters of March 3 and details Lee County’s effort to assess needs and deliver relief to those devastated and trapped by the disaster.

Key Takeaways

  • First responders use maps and apps to understand the impact of a disaster.
  • The Emergency Operations Center receives real-time feeds from field apps and aggregates the full picture for situational awareness.
  • Data gathered immediately after the response helps local authorities during the long-term recovery and rebuilding effort.

 

Read the full blog at https://www.esri.com/about/newsroom/blog/lee-county-maps-tornado-victim-needs

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Esri Contributor

Check out the latest blog from Ryan Lanclos, Director of Public Safety Industries on the first of a two-part story about damage assessment for the devastating tornadoes in Lee County, Alabama. 

Key Takeaways

  • First responders use maps and apps for damage assessment to prioritize response and find victims.
  • The National Weather Service uses GIS to collect, map and classify the extent and track of each tornado’s path.
  • Automated preliminary response estimates speed assessment and rescue work.

 

Read the full blog at https://www.esri.com/about/newsroom/blog/authorities-map-and-model-damage-from-deadly-alabama-tornad...

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Esri Contributor

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

 

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Esri Contributor

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.

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Esri Contributor

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.

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Esri Contributor

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-wor....

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

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Esri Contributor

by Ryan Lanclos, Esri Director of Public Safety Industries

With fiery lava flow from Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea Volcano prompting urgent evacuation orders, one might expect the last thing on residents’ minds would be cleaning house. Yet, many locals of Leilani Estates, a neighborhood now mostly destroyed, not only took the time to clean their homes, they also did extra gardening, planted fresh flowers, and left offerings to honor the volcano that was threatening their homes.

This last-minute preparation paid respect to Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess. Kilauea Volcano continues to wreak havoc in spectacular fashion, spewing billions of gallons of molten lava across the landscape of Hawaii’s Big Island and into the ocean. But the Hawaiian people are pragmatic and accepting, viewing Pele’s activity as part of the natural process of destruction and creation that forms the Hawaiian Islands. They clean their homes to return them to Pele in a good state, since they believe she gave them the land in the first place.

This ongoing eruption of the Kilauea volcano, which started in early May 2018, continues to shock geologists. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) notes that such an event is unprecedented in the past 200 years, and there’s no telling how much longer it will continue. Already, the Halemaʻumaʻu crater has grown to seven times its previous size by volume, creating almost 700 acres of new land. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed and more are still at risk. Yet, the threat to lives has ebbed significantly since the early days of the eruption when evacuations and search and rescue operations, including a drone strike team, went into full force.

Pele offerings

The Hawaiian people pay homage to Pele, the volcano goddess, by leaving offerings to be burned up as the lava advances.

First (robot) responders

Among those responding to the volcanic eruption were a new breed of emergency responders: robots from the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue, or CRASAR. A five-person team of highly trained volunteers from CRASAR deployed to Kilauea a few days after the eruption. They brought a fleet of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS), commonly known as drones, to assist in the rescue operations.

CRASAR, a nonprofit organization, champions the use of small unmanned vehicles in emergency response. Disasters present dangerous and sometimes life-threatening scenarios to first responders. Disaster robots can go where people or emergency response dogs can’t, minimizing the risk to life. CRASAR assisted at the World Trade Center on 9/11, and since then has supplied robotic assistance for 28 disasters including earthquakes, building collapses, floods, nuclear accidents, tsunamis, and underground mine explosions.

Kilauea provided a new challenge to the team, and they executed the first known use of drones in emergency response to a volcanic eruption. While drones have been used previously to map volcanoes, CRASAR’s fleet was the first to use them to officially aid disaster response. The team’s participation also freed up drone resources from the University of Hawaii at Hilo to focus on geological observations during those crucial first days.

Breaking this new ground made an impact on the experienced team. Justin Adams, president of CRASAR, described their encounter with Pele vividly:

“It was unique. I’ve never dealt with lava before. None of us have. We’ve dealt with mudslides, and we tried to compare it to mudslides. But just the color of the lava, the sparkling of it burning up the vegetation and trees, looked like blood flowing down the side of the mountain. It looked like arteries because of the way it was pulsing.”

Ground truth by drone

Over a six-day period, from May 14 to May 19, CRASAR flew 44 drone flights, 16 of which happened at night. These missions were invaluable, since manned aircraft such as helicopters were prohibited to fly at night. The crew staged the drone flights from restricted-access roads near the volcano, driving their vehicle through the eerily quiet evacuation zones and moving locations often to follow and map the lava flows.

During these flights, the drones were outfitted with thermal sensors. They identified a new fissure (Fissure 8, which continues to expel lava months later), mapped the lava fronts using thermal cameras, and provided data to the USGS to help determine the speed of lava flow.

To capture the data, a drone would hover above the front edge of a lava flow, take an image straight down, and note the GPS coordinate of that image. Several minutes later, the drone would follow the leading edge of the flow to its new location and repeat the procedure. This was a much safer maneuver than previous USGS data collection, according to Adams.

“They had been gathering data by a person getting close to the lava, taking a GPS coordinate, waiting, and trying to walk down in front of the lava flow to take another GPS coordinate,” he said.

During the day, drones mapped fissures and measured dangerous sulfur dioxide emissions, reducing the number of costly helicopter flights needed.

In one daytime mission, emergency personnel received an alert that someone might be in danger in an isolated house. One of CRASAR’s drones quickly deployed to verify. Known as “ground-truthing,” emergency responders must validate the accuracy of incoming information, especially when it can mean the difference between life and death.

“Citizens were calling in reports, so first responders called CRASAR and we had a strike team that would go and do validation of air quality, lava flow, or lava extent,” Adams said. “We acted as an on-demand task force crew.”

thermal image

The CRASAR team used a thermal sensor to map the lava fronts, cutting through the smoke to show the lava extent.

Expertise, experience, and technology

Many factors contributed to the effectiveness of CRASAR’s efforts during the emergency response. Three stand out: technical and scientific expertise, disaster training and experience, and specialized software.

The CRASAR team members’ expertise fostered good communication with other first responders and the USGS. Their scientific backgrounds allowed them to speak the same language as the scientists and engineers involved.

Experience with previous disasters prepared the CRASAR team for Kilauea. They knew which questions to ask in an emergency and what their drones could do to assist the operation.

Finally, they used specialized software to automatically tag images with their locations. They visualized the information in real time on a digital map by using geographic information system (GIS) technology. They employed another application to take panoramic aerial photos automatically instead of manually, expediting situational awareness.

“CRASAR has equipment and technology that was placed above what we’re used to,” said Christian Wong, Executive Director, Hawaii Science and Technology Museum. “In particular, their capability to do 360-degree views of an area very quickly. They used a lot of pre-programmed applications with their drones that are able to do certain tasks that normally, if you relied on a pilot, might take a little while to get done and it wouldn’t be as efficient.”

Next steps for Kīlauea drone response

The CRASAR team’s work was a success. They reduced cost and risk, and increased situational awareness for all involved responders, government agencies, and the public. The team hopes this will build support for future use of robots in disaster response and public safety.

While CRASAR has completed its official operations in Hawaii, the team remains on standby, communicating with first responders often and ready to deploy again should the situation change.

The work of drones at Kilauea continues with the University of Hawaii at Hilo performing daily monitoring of the eruption, as reported by CNN. The drones provide a reliable stream of visual information helpful in communication with the public during this kind of emergency.

“The visual data drones collect is very useful in helping show the people why they’ve been evacuated from certain areas,” Wong said. “Once they see the devastation and damage, they understand why they cannot be let back to their homes.”

Wong noted that CRASAR’s participation had an unexpected outcome. It inspired local students from Hawaii’s Big Island to start creating their own disaster robot designed specifically for volcano response.

While the Hawaiian people feel Pele will always be unpredictable— taking and giving land according to natural cycles—emergency responders and scientists can now fly drones above a volcanic eruption for a safer way to observe and measure her awe-inspiring power.

 

Learn more about how drones are being used for social good and humanitarian missions in this Esri & The Science of Where Podcast.

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