Preparing for the New Normal in Emergency Management

07-30-2018 08:26 PM
Esri Regular Contributor
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by Ryan Lanclos, Director of Public Safety Industries, Esri

Esri Releases New and Updated Pre-Configured Solution for Emergency Management Operations

Living in the Houston, Texas, area, my family and friends experienced Hurricane Harvey firsthand. This historic storm dropped more than 60 inches of rain in areas of southeastern Texas. Over a four-day period, Hurricane Harvey dropped enough rainfall to cover Harris County's 1,777 square miles with an average.... We were very lucky compared to many others around us and our property did not sustain any direct damage.

Looking at the global picture, we see how acute shocks associated with a changing climate, increasing social unrest, and evolving terrorism tactics are putting more people at risk every day. Compounding the effects of these threats and hazards are the ongoing, slow-moving stressors that underlay the fabric of our world. Chronic stressors, like poverty and aging infrastructure, tend to exacerbate the impact of acute shocks like Hurricane Harvey. As a result, the cost to our communities will continue to rise. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States set a new record in the cumulative cost of weather-related disasters, exceeding $300 billion. What used to be unthinkable has become our reality. This is our new normal.

        NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI): 2017 U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters

Here at Esri, I have the privilege of leading a passionate team that is dedicated to helping organizations respond to incidents of all types and sizes. This team combines the science of geography with Esri's geographic information system (GIS) platform, called ArcGIS, to provide location intelligence 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for organizations around the world. In the 20-year history of the Esri Disaster Response Program (DRP), 2017 was the busiest year. That is now our new normal.

Organizational Assessment

As a geographer, I believe that the element of location is key to understanding. I also believe that having a baseline location intelligence capability in place is a crucial component of being prepared for the new normal in emergency management. Organizations need the element of location to help them make better decisions, and they need solutions that enable these critical decisions to be data driven. Therein is the value of location intelligence.

I am often asked what the most common request is for the Esri DRP. People want to know what others are asking for so that they can assess whether they have that capability. It's like they are looking for a benchmark to measure their organization against. I think that is a great mind-set!

Instead of seeing just one challenge that you can assess your organization against, how about having a list so that you can do a true organizational assessment? Here are the most common business challenges we help organizations solve when we activate the Esri DRP (note that every single one requires location intelligence):

  • Monitoring real-time situational awareness
  • Understanding potential impacts to the community
  • Conducting initial damage assessments
  • Presenting dynamic incident briefings
  • Managing public information and scaling for the news media cycle

How Do You Compare?

Now that you know what the most common business challenges are, how do you compare? Do you have solutions for each challenge that, when combined, provide you with the baseline location capability outlined above? If you do, are these solutions integrated on a common operating platform that allows data and information to flow between apps and users? Can you get information out of your business systems and into the hands of partners or the public when needed?

If you can answer yes to these questions and you have trustworthy solutions for the challenges above, then my next question is this: how are you using these solutions on a daily basis for your agency's operations?

Integrating these solutions into the daily operations of your organization is the next step. Don't just shelve these solutions and expect to "break glass in case of an emergency." Use them to support daily operations, be confident in them, and continually update and maintain them so that you are ready for the next incident.

Where Next?

I hope we never have another storm like Hurricane Harvey, but we all know one is coming. Also, other disaster-related incidents like the recent wildland fires in Napa, California, and flooding in Ellicott City, Maryland, will continue to set new records and redefine normal. At Esri, we've learned a lot over the years while assisting our users through the Esri DRP, and I believe addressing the issues outlined above can help you be better prepared.

I'm excited that recent lessons learned have resulted in the release of a new pre-configured solution for emergency management operations that can improve your organization's operations during incident response as well as daily, "blue sky" operations. You can download and configure these solutions yourself, or we can provide Esri services to deploy and configure them for you. We can also help you develop a plan for surge staffing in your Emergency Operations Center (EOC), using qualified GIS professionals from Esri to augment your capacity if needed during a response.

Esri was founded as a private company in 1969 to help make a difference in the world, and we still carry that mission forward today. I work here because I believe in that mission, and I want to help you be better prepared when it comes to geospatial technology and GIS. I want to help you make a difference in your own organization, in your community, and in the world. It is going to require all of us working together to prepare for our new normal. Let's start working toward that baseline capability together.

Learn more about the Emergency Management Operations solution and start modernizing your agency’s operations.

About the Author
I am the Industry Specialist for Public Safety and Disaster Response Program. This includes Public Safety sub-markets of Law Enforcement, Homeland/National Security, Emergency Management, Emergency Communications, Humanitarian, Fraud Waste and Abuse, Corporate Security and Resilience, Fire/Rescue/EMS, and Wildland Fire. I also coordinate the Disaster Response Program and here at Esri. I manage the National Security Summit and National Security Showcase at the UC every year. I have been with Esri since 2000. Content I post may be from my team members and will be indicated in the by-line.