Category: Disaster/Risk Assessment

Facebook and Disasters

Posted by – October 22, 2014

Facebook's Safety Check
In a Oct 15 blog posting, Facebook introduced a new Safety Check feature that asks Facebook users within the vicinity of a disaster if they’re safe. Users that answer “I’m Safe” will have an automatically generated News Feed story posted to their Wall for their friends to see. This is one more way – in addition to the American Red Cross’ “Safe and Well” site – to let friends and family know you’re OK in the event of a disaster. (Via Emergency Management)

-ddw

Data the Best Preparation for Disasters?

Posted by – October 14, 2014

At a recent GovTech forum in Los Angeles, experts from the USGS, academia, and industry assessed that open data and analytics have become fundamental tools in disaster preparedness – but public officials aren’t using them enough. Citing examples of seismological data, post-Katrina New Orleans, and FEMA’s Disaster Assessment and Assistance Dashboard, the experts illustrated the value of data and analytics to protecting lives and property. They offered that the primary reasons to defer investment in emergency management tools and infrastructure stems from the mistaken beliefs that such expenditures are unjustifiable because they don’t serve immediate needs and large emergencies are infrequent.

-ddw

First Responder Mobility

Posted by – May 17, 2014

Recent research by the Center for Digital Government shows that slightly under half of surveyed emergency respondents said they lack access to smartphones and tablets that could provide up-to-the-minute communications and data vital to emergency response. The report, sponsored by VMWare, assesses law enforcement and first responders’ adoption of mobile technologies, their mobility challenges and what they hope to gain from current and future devices. The research suggests that, although the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 created FirstNet, an authority tasked with designing and building a national broadband network dedicated to emergency response, at this point, almost half of first responders would have to bring their own devices to access that network.

Note: On May 21, Emergency Management will host a free webinar discussing this research with its author, Joe Morris.

-ddw

Megafires

Posted by – March 9, 2014

Forest fires of great intensity, size, and consequence – megafires — are becoming the new normal, according to a paper in the journal of the Ecological Society of America by Stephens et al. The article, flagged by the Washington Post yesterday, attributes the increasing frequency of megafires to climate-change induced drought; housing developments encroaching on forests; and the U.S. policy to suppress fires rather than letting them burn naturally, reducing the brush that fuels future fires. An NPR series from 2012 provides more detail.

The above map, from the U.S. Forest Service’s excellent Wildland Fire Assessment System, shows the current Fire Danger Rating based on current and antecedent weather, fuel types, and both live and dead fuel moisture (the classes are explained here).

-ddw

Best Use of a Drone

Posted by – December 28, 2013

In addition to their use by the military and potentially in emergency response, George Zisiadis and Mustafa Khan bring us the Mistletoe Drone, just in time for your New Year’s Eve party:

If you have $300 or so you can make your own romance drone, complete with video streaming (mistletoe is extra). But keep in mind that privately-operated drones are quasi-legal for the present, since the FAA is not expected to issue licenses for private drone operation until 2015.

-ddw

Crisis Camp for Haiyan Relief

Posted by – November 14, 2013

A group I follow, Understanding Risk, has posted a call for mapping assistance to support the typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan disaster relief efforts. They are recruiting volunteers to use OpenStreetMap to digitize roads, buildings, and other features from satellite imagery made freely available by Microsoft and the US State Department’s Humanitarian Information Unit. The resulting maps will be used by the Red Cross, the United Nations and other responding organizations working in the Philippines. To get started, you can:

– Visit the project coordination page for more information;

– Login to the OSM Tasking Manager (OpenStreetMap account required) and click on a task to contribute;

– For questions join the mailing list of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team; and

– If you are in DC, join the @OpenStreetMap at @CrisisCamp this Saturday, November 16.

In previous major disasters, efforts such as these have consistently proven to be valuable in support of disaster relief efforts.

-ddw

Crisis Mapping Conference

Posted by – September 1, 2013

The 5th International Conference of Crisis Mappers will be held 18-22 November 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya, and will bring together the most engaged practitioners, scholars, software developers and policymakers at the cutting edge of crisis mapping and humanitarian technology. ICCM 2013 follows successful conferences in 2009, 2010, 2011, & 2012. Register here.

Fire

Posted by – July 6, 2013

The USDA Forest Service’s Active Fire Mapping Program uses satellite data and interagency information to provide detection and characterization of wildland fires across the United States and Canada. The program acquires temporal image data directly from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite for near real-time data coverage for the entire United States and Canada. This imagery is combined with fire intelligence information and GIS technologies to create a suite of geospatial products assessing current fire activity, fire intensity, burned area extent and smoke conditions throughout the U.S. and Canada. You can browse the results at the program’s extraordinary website as GIS datasets and live data services, multi-spectral image subsets, and analytical products/summaries.

And a note of great respect for those acting on this information on the ground, including nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots that died last week defending lives and property near Yarnell, AZ.

-ddw

P.S. See also the Incident Command summary site for the Yarnell fire.

Drones: Next Step for Disaster Assessment?

Posted by – May 27, 2013

Domestic Drone
Drones – a.k.a. unmanned airborne vehicles (UAVs) – are poised for domestic use in disaster assessment. UAVs are portable, affordable aircraft that can launch quickly in dangerous situations and could be used to locate survivors or provide data on the impact of a disaster. Earlier this year, the American Red Cross in Oklahoma tested the use of UAV’s in assessing the extent of disasters but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is very restrictive about who can fly a drone and how they can fly it within the United States. The FAA has committed to promulgating regulations by 2015 to govern the domestic U.S. use of UAVs, but in the meantime, disasters like the recent Oklahoma tornadoes will have to make do with satellite imagery.

Thanks to Steve for the tip!

-ddw

We are all First Responders

Posted by – January 28, 2013

This Saturday’s New York Times included a feature on Preppers: people that assemble emergency supplies in case a major disaster disaster leaves them without food, water and shelter. In it, the author admitted with some embarrassment that he, too, was a Prepper, and set out to learn if preparing for a disaster was crazy or rational. This quest led him to Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, and the answers he got seemed to surprise him. For example, Dr. Redlener repeated many of the things he had heard from Preppers: it was rational to be situationally aware, to have a bag of disaster supplies and a plan to reunite with loved ones. Redlener noted:

“There’s a spectrum. On one end is mindless complacency. On the other is paranoia. The challenge is to find that place in the middle where you understand that bad things can happen, but it doesn’t consume your life.”

I have to confess a being more than a little dismayed when the author noted being surprised to hear Redlener say the authorities might not respond promptly in the event of a disaster – that everyone should be prepared to take care of themselves for several days. That is, in fact, part of the National Plan – that the entire community needs to take part in disaster preparedness and response. I guess the advertising campaign hasn’t paid off

Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed

-ddw