The American Red Cross has released a smartphone app that helps you check on family and friends during emergencies, appropriately called Emergency:
The app is easy to use and has options for monitoring hazards in your area and for pinging loved ones that may be in the vicinity of an emergency. Load it on your kids’ phones so you can quickly check on them, too. Available for free download (Android or iOS) – ahora disponible en español también!
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate has his own Twitter stream, @CraigatFEMA, and often tweets useful information on disasters, conferences, and policies. One of his most recent was to highlight a map of the potential for wildland fires across the US:
The National Hurricane Center has steadily improved hurricane models over the past 25 years, as shown in this animation of uncertainties in the 48-hour predicted location of a hurricane’s center (mp4 video):
NHC is also prototyping storm surge mapping tools and conducting in-house (non-public) experiments with extending tropical cyclone track and intensity forecasts to seven days from the current five-day period; creating track and intensity forecasts for disturbances with a high chance of formation; and issuing tropical cyclone watches and warnings before cyclones form.
P.S. Although I like seeing how uncertainty declines with time, I don’t think the animation adds much to this over the simple contours labelled by year.
Google Maps is still the gold standard for smartphone mapping apps, according to NY Times columnist Molly Woods, who recently compared three smartphone mapping applications – Google Maps (iOS, Android), Apple Maps (iOS), and Here (WinPhone, Nokia). Apple Maps has made progress since its failed 2012 debut, but, according to Woods, Google Maps is still the winner. All of these provide some version of turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, flyover and vector-based maps; given that they are all free, I’d suggest you try out whichever one is available for your smartphone to see which is best for you. My choice is None of the Above: I’ve used Scout, (free, iOS) for the past two years because I like its interface and its ability to share my ETA along with a link to a map of my current location. And, if you subscribe, you can download the OpenStreetMaps region of your choice and use Scout off-line – a real plus if you are out of cell range or during disaster responses.
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)
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.
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:
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.
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.