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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management 5 Guidelines for Geospatial Preparedness 5.1 INTRODUCTION The preceding chapters of this report have identified numerous issues, and Chapter 4 made certain specific recommendations. The discussion to this point has been general and has included issues that affect all levels of government, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and the general public. It seemed to the committee that it would be useful at this stage of the report to assemble a set of guidelines, based on presentations to the committee and the content of previous chapters, that could be used by agencies seeking to improve their levels of geospatial preparedness. The chapter has been assembled by members of the committee with particular experience in emergency operations and presents a series of potential solutions to the issues encountered in the previous chapters. Appendix C presents a checklist developed from those issues and solutions that is designed to assist members of the emergency management community in analyzing how well they have integrated geospatial data and tools into their emergency management processes and how well prepared they are to take advantage of them during a disaster. Its goal is to help all levels of government to understand better their deficiencies in this arena and to suggest actions they might implement to be better prepared for future disasters. While the lists here and in the appendix represent a compilation of issues and topics addressed by the committee, made available to it through submissions and testimony, and compiled from the relevant literature, they are nevertheless incomplete. The committee fully
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management expects that organizations and individuals may find it necessary or appropriate to make additions to the lists. 5.2 CRITICAL ELEMENTS IN SUCCESSFUL PLANNING AND RESPONSE To ensure a successful planning and response effort for emergencies, there are a set of critical elements that are important at all response levels from the local to the national. Testimony to the committee identified a number of geospatial elements that were especially relevant. These are identified and explained below. 5.2.1 Integration Develop standard, written operating procedures that integrate the use of geospatial information across all phases of emergency management at the municipal, state, and federal government levels. Where necessary, modify existing procedures to incorporate the use of geospatial information into the workflow and decision-making cycle of emergency managers at all levels as well as first responders. Develop a geospatial team location at the emergency operations center. Provide a dedicated workspace, data, hardware, software, and infrastructure to support a geospatial team. Establish a close working relationship between the state geographic information systems (GIS) coordinator and the state emergency management staff. Hold regular meetings between the state GIS coordinator and his or her emergency management counterparts to determine gaps between resources and needs. Develop an action plan to bridge those needs. Establish relationships and coordinate activities. Establish working relationships with adjoining jurisdictions and between state and federal governments to share data and products prior to an event occurring. Colleges and universities, as well as national labs, also may have centers of geospatial expertise that could provide support in an emergency. If useful geospatial information is to be provided to the emergency response community in an incident, then all geospatial communities must be included in the process early on. At the local level, relationships must be established with geospatial professionals at the county and state levels to ensure that a coordinated approach is developed for the sharing of data prior to an event and for the distribution of products during an event. In addition, a methodology for obtaining regular inventories of useful local, county, state, and federal data must be established through the data custodians. All of these relationships should ideally be built first at the local com-
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management munity level, then at the county level, then the state level, and finally the federal level. If done properly, they will establish a robust network that will enable the data custodians and the GIS coordinators to add value to the process and to assist all levels of the emergency response community in the development of a dynamic infrastructure to support their needs. In particular, federal government organizations intending to provide geospatial services for an area need to coordinate their activities better with state, county, and municipal GIS coordinators as well as their emergency management counterparts to save time and resources and to eliminate duplication. In most cases, this coordination can be best done by working through the state GIS coordinator. Develop agreements. Develop agreements between geospatial professional teams at the municipal, state, and federal levels to predetermine the data and products to be used, generated, and shared during a disaster. Additionally, determine the roles on which each level will concentrate in order to avoid duplication of effort when a large event occurs. Obtain around-the-clock contact information for GIS coordinators and their emergency management counterparts along with their respective backups in the state. Make this information available to the emergency management community at all levels in the state. In addition, provide around-the-clock contact information for the emergency management counterpart (and his or her backup) to the GIS coordinator in the state. Develop similar contact information for the GIS coordinators and their emergency management counterparts in each county and metropolitan government in the state. Develop a secure web site with around-the-clock contact information for GIS coordinators, their emergency management counterparts, and their respective backups in each state. This web site should be publicized and made available to federal agencies that respond to emergencies as well as to emergency responders and GIS coordinators across the country. It would allow emergency responders and GIS coordinators to communicate more easily before, during, and after an incident to determine information on human resources, data, and equipment across their state. 5.2.2 Human Services Establish a geospatial team to support emergency response. A geospatial team should be created for an emergency response organization. This team needs to be organized with roles established for each team member. These roles should include an overall manager, a liaison (to coordinate activities and determine needs of responders), and highly skilled technical staff. All participants should be quick and able to work under extreme pressure.
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management Establish a geospatial away team. One of the lessons learned from the events of September 11, 2001, was the value of having geospatial professionals close to the site to support operations. Where possible, having geospatial professionals that can be used in a team to complement efforts at or near the incident site can be extremely valuable both to provide responders with detailed geospatial information and to retrieve incident-related data from the site. These teams should be equipped at a minimum with data, hardware, and software. In some larger urban areas and states, these teams need permanent vehicles to support this role. Develop an up-to-date inventory of geospatial professionals in each state along with their areas of expertise that can be called upon to respond to an emergency. This inventory should be shared between the state GIS coordinators and their emergency management counterparts and should include around-the-clock contact information for each person (see Recommendation 11). Establish a team to do modeling or establish contact with national teams having this responsibility. Establish or make contact with teams of experts with scientific expertise to develop and run models for plume analysis, hurricane surges, flooding, and so forth. Include on the team both geospatial experts able to use the available software and scientists with backgrounds in a variety of areas able to ensure proper input into the models and reasonable results. 5.2.3 Training Establish a training program for all levels of emergency response across the country that details the decision-making support available from geospatial tools. Conduct training on the capabilities for decision support that geospatial information can provide for emergency responders at all levels. Include information on the differing types of information applicable to each level of responder. Modify existing emergency management training to incorporate the use of geospatial information into the workflow and decision-making cycle of emergency managers at all levels and of first responders. To be productive and avoid the pathologies of many poorly executed programs, these exercises should have clear objectives related to geospatial operations and should be narrowly tailored to focus on these objectives. Establish a training program for members of the geospatial response teams within each state to train them in emergency management procedures as well as the data and tools available for use in an incident. In addition, establish a training program for other potential geospatial responders who may be called upon during a large event, detailing the emergency management organizational structure and Standard Operating Procedures. Both groups should be trained on the existing data, data-gathering methodologies and
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management technologies, the software, the equipment, and product delivery mechanisms to be used during an emergency. Conduct regular scenario-based training exercises that incorporate the use of geospatial responders and geospatial information in supporting emergency response operations at all levels within the organization. Use these exercises to familiarize emergency responders with the capabilities of geospatial information and geospatial professionals with the specific needs and timing for delivery of this information. In particular, these exercises should stress to geospatial responders both the need to understand the data clearly and the need for rapid delivery of geospatial maps and other products to emergency responders. Include the geospatial professional team manager and liaison in the exercise meetings and briefings to allow him or her to understand better the contexts in which the geospatial products are being used in the decision-making process. Results of these exercises should be made available to those not able to participate, giving them the opportunity to learn from such experiences. Scenario-based exercises relying on the use of geospatial information should occur at least on an annual basis between municipal, state, and federal responders (for an example of such exercises, see the New York State web site),1 and might leverage the National Exercise Program currently coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Grants and Training. 5.2.4 Data Access Relationships. Gaining access to varied kinds of data required to respond to an emergency requires a concerted effort. The emergency management community and GIS coordinators need to work closely with the data custodians early in the process to understand their concerns and be able to accommodate them while meeting their emergency management needs. Access to data should, where practical, extend from the local government up to county, state, and federal governments. State GIS coordinators should be involved in the process of developing a system to access those data easily and quickly for emergency response activities. 5.2.5 Data Quality Establish a team to identify and gather data required to meet state emergency management needs. Working with the emergency managers, this team should identify and locate the most appropriate data available to meet 1 http://www.nysgis.state.ny.us/outreach/training/gen_scenario_resp.htm.
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management emergency response needs. After reviewing the data, the team needs to determine the quality and usability of the data. Where necessary, it should identify data requiring improvement or data not currently available needing development. The team should coordinate these activities with the state GIS coordinator and the state emergency management agency. A joint plan should be developed that prioritizes the work on the data required to meet those needs. Often data will require geographic adjustments that can be made relatively easily by overlaying the data on recent digital orthoimagery. In other cases, there will be deficiencies in the data’s attributes. These issues should be addressed by working closely with the data custodians to correct or complete missing information. In all cases, the improved data should be returned to the data custodians for their use and to encourage improved data updates down the line (see Section 5.2.7). 5.2.6 Data Gathering Establish agreements with local governments and utilities and other private-sector sources. Work closely with local governments and utilities and other private-sector data sources to establish good relationships to share data. Where required, establish legal agreements to obtain access to and use of data required from local governments for emergency response use. Where possible, these agreements should be worded to allow use of those data by multiple organizations at various levels of government for training, preparation for, and recovery from emergency events. In addition, the time frame for updates should be established and agreements reached for obtaining those updates. If possible, on-line access to the latest data should also be arranged. Develop a GIS-based system to track the distribution of emergency equipment and supplies. This system should be established to enable emergency managers to route and track the location, quantity, and type of items stockpiled in and distributed to an area. It will greatly improve distribution of supplies and equipment to those in need, enhance their ability to recover reusable equipment (emergency generators and pumps), and provide information that can be analyzed to determine future needs (see Sidebar 5.1). Develop and deploy a system for electronic field collection of data. Obtaining timely, accurate, on-site data depicting the extent of an incident or the nature of its impact is critical to assist emergency managers in planning their response to an event. One method for accomplishing this is by using Global Positioning System (GPS) enabled, handheld computers with wireless communication systems. If these computers are programmed for emergency events and have drop-down menus to describe the character-
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management Sidebar 5.1 Homeland Security Secretary Announces Tracking System for Emergency Equipment and Suppliesa Speaking on February 13, 2006, to the National Emergency Management Association Mid-Year Conference, Secretary Michael Chertoff addressed some of the problems that became apparent in the response to Hurricane Katrina, including the lack of effective tracking of emergency supplies: Despite this remarkable effort, FEMA’s [the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s] logistics systems were not up to the task of handling a truly catastrophic event. The reality is, FEMA lacks technology and information management systems to effectively track shipments and manage inventories. FEMA relies on other government agencies, like the Department of Transportation, who often serve as agents of FEMA, and contract through their extensive network of private sector entities to provide support and move most of the necessary commodities. But the fact of the matter is, if FEMA is going to take responsibility for moving goods and services, it can’t do it by remote control. It has to have the ability directly to impact the way in which we monitor and supervise and are able to effect in real time the movement of those supplies. Therefore, DHS must have some of the same skill sets that 21st century companies in the private sector have to routinely track, monitor and dispatch commodities where they are needed. Our first step for strengthening FEMA will be to create a 21st century logistics management system that will require the establishment of a logistics supply chain, working with other federal agencies in the private sector. What that means in the very short-run—because we’re not going to get all this done immediately—is that we have to put agreements into place before the need arises again to ensure a network of relief products, supplies and transportation support that can be tracked and managed. In other words, we are going to insist this year, as we go into contracting, that we are going to have as a capability with anybody who is carrying our goods and services real-time visibility to where those deliveries are, when they’re going to arrive, and, if necessary, the ability to redirect those, if the emergency so requires. ahttp://www.dhs.gov/xnews/speeches/speech_0268.shtm.
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management istics encountered, these data can be gathered relatively easily and forwarded quickly to the emergency operations center. Store the inventoried data within each state’s emergency operations center in at least one geographically distant location. Because communication networks and power systems are often impacted by large events, data stored in the emergency operations center should also be backed up in at least one geographically distant location. Updates to all stored data (including backups) should be scheduled on a regular basis. Where possible, this should include metadata and a data catalog. Last, the alternate locations of these data should be provided on a secure web site for use by other authorized users, if required. Securely store copies of the same data on physical media capable of being brought to incident sites for response and recovery efforts. Provide the locations of these media on the secure web site. Establish an agreement with a national site to store and provide secure on-line access to a copy of these data. Once again, redundancy of data storage is being stressed to accommodate the many problems with data access that have occurred in past disasters. This national site should be an “industrial-strength” site and should specialize in data storage. One site that should be considered for such a role is the U.S. Geological Survey’s Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Establish regional or statewide emergency contracts to provide imagery of an incident site within 24 or at worst 48 hours of an event. One of the first types of data needed after an event is aerial imagery. Contracts have to be in place to allow rapid access by all levels of government as soon as they have provided the appropriate level of funding to cover the costs. Establish agreements and standard operating procedures to acquire digital images via state, county, municipal, or private-sector helicopters, et cetera, within one hour of an event and covering impacted sites. Digital pictures taken from a helicopter can provide valuable insight into the extent of an incident for emergency managers. While they may have limited use as geospatial information, they provide a very quick perspective of the event. During the World Trade Center recovery efforts, they were used on a regular basis along with aerial, thermal, and LIDAR (light detection and ranging) imagery. Establishing agreements for helicopter support prior to an event with local police or state agencies (or the private sector) can be extremely valuable. Develop an up-to-date inventory of municipal, county, and state data available for emergency response in each state (including metadata). This inventory should note the best data available in all categories, utilizing the resources of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) as much as possible. It should include contact information for individuals familiar
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management with how the data were developed. This inventory should be posted to a secure web site based on NSDI architecture that is accessible by emergency managers. Where possible, the inventoried data and metadata should be made available on-line as well. Distribute these inventories to municipal, county, state, and federal responders and the state GIS coordinators. In addition, provide them with access to this information on the secure web site. Finally, develop a methodology to keep these inventories up-to-date on an annual basis, at a minimum. 5.2.7 Data Improvement Establish a joint federal, state, and municipal program to fund the development and annual update of critical geospatial data. The data developed or improved under such a program must be coordinated through the state GIS coordinators and meet the needs of local governments. Such a program should be flexible in providing funding and resources that supplement existing local and state government efforts. Where data do not exist, efforts should be made to provide resources or funding to the state GIS coordinator to allow their creation and to ensure that the data created meet local government needs. 5.2.8 Information Delivery Deliver data rapidly. One of the keys to making geospatial information a valuable resource to the emergency management community is to be able to deliver it when it is needed. When an event occurs, emergency responders want to react quickly to limit its effects. Therefore, they are looking for significant information on that event within the first hour of it happening. Traditionally, a number of reasons cause delay in providing geospatial information, including gathering the team, locating the incident, and creating maps to portray its location, extent, and impact. If this information is to be included and to be of value in early decision making, the geospatial team must deliver certain standard products to the emergency managers rapidly when they are establishing their initial strategies. Understand the needs. The geospatial team must understand the needs of emergency responders and learn to match the appropriate products with those needs. If a responder needs to know the schools (and contact numbers) in an area to be evacuated, a simple list may be more useful and certainly quicker than printing out a beautifully composed map of those school locations. Close coordination with the emergency managers and knowledge of their workflow and information needs by the geospatial
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management team manager are essential in understanding their requirements and choosing the appropriate output. Develop standard work products. Develop protocols that deliver standard work products to emergency managers quickly through the use of templates and other simple programs. Adoption of a standard map layout should be part of this process. The goal of the team should be production of maps within the first hour after the event occurs or shortly thereafter. In New York State, an application has also been built to allow emergency managers to query geospatial information and obtain maps and reports through a web application without any significant technical expertise. Making this capability directly available to emergency responders is another way to deliver this information faster. A similar initiative has been taken in South Carolina.2 Enhance models depicting the impact of disasters hitting the community. Models for incidents that can potentially occur in the community should be adapted to the community’s location and context. In coastal areas, models can be run to determine the worst-case storm surge for a particular hurricane category. This, in turn, can provide an idea of the population that may have to be evacuated and the logistical requirements for evacuating and sheltering that population. Similar models can simulate each of the hurricane categories that could hit the area. In other areas of the country, models could be developed to determine the extent of flooding from a river based on the predicted height of the water in that river. This predetermined information can then be archived for use during a real incident at a later time. Development of these models should be coordinated at the state level to avoid redundancy and should be made available to authorized geospatial professionals at all levels of government. Keep it simple. Because most emergency managers and responders are not fully familiar with geospatial data and tools and because they are under extreme pressure during an incident, they may lack the time to understand clearly what is being presented to them. This problem can be reduced if the team remembers to keep its products simple and uses graphics that make them easy to understand. Anticipate needs. While providing the standard products quickly is essential, it is important to be able to anticipate other needs specific to the type of event as it continues. One way to do this is by having the geospatial team liaison take time to meet with operational groups and 2 http://www.cas.sc.edu/geog/hrl/scemdmain.htm.
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management task forces within the emergency operations center to determine their needs and inform the team during an event. At the same time, the liaison can offer these groups suggestions on how geospatial information might provide them with assistance. Test delivery mechanisms. The finest geospatial products in the world will be useless if they cannot be delivered in a timely manner during an emergency. Some delivery methods can be as simple as capturing an image and pasting it into a PowerPoint presentation. There are some that appear simple, such as printing out a map, but that can become agonizing if the plotter fails to respond properly or is too slow. Other mechanisms, such as posting data to a web site or moving it to a web-based services application can be limited by numerous technical issues. All of these methods should be tested on a regular basis to ensure their availability in a time of need. Practice. There is no substitute for the team practicing the delivery of these products. Once the team is satisfied that it can deliver the standard products quickly, then it needs to incorporate its workflow into scenario exercises. These can be done separately with the team and then as part of the emergency operations center workflow. If this practice is approached properly, team members will be better prepared to deal with the pressure of a real-life situation and able to react more effectively to it to meet emergency managers’ needs. It is important to keep logs describing the methods used and examples of the maps and other products generated to support retrospective analysis of performance. 5.2.9 Hardware and Infrastructure Establish a secure, nationwide methodology to access local data. As an event grows from a local to a state and then to a national crisis, there is a need for more and more geospatial responders from different parts of the state and the country to provide support. However, this support cannot be given without access to the best data. A mechanism should be established to provide a consistent, secure nationwide methodology for responders across the country to obtain access to the best data easily and rapidly. The mechanism should accommodate multiple authorized users at different levels across the country. This mechanism must include appropriate redundancies and provide linkages to the appropriate data sources in each state. It must allow local, county, state, and federal governments to post and retrieve data without significant restrictions during an emergency. Whatever mechanism is chosen, it should be coordinated through the state, county, and local GIS coordinators. In addition, once established, this infrastructure should be integrated into training exer-
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management cises for all levels of emergency response to ensure that this technology can be used effectively during a disaster. Develop an up-to-date inventory of the relevant geospatial hardware and resources available for use in an emergency in each state. This inventory should be developed in conjunction with the state GIS coordinator and should include resources from government, academic, and private-sector organizations. Around-the-clock contact information should be included for each resource. This inventory should also be posted to a secure web site for access by authorized emergency and geospatial responders. Establish a backup satellite communications system. Communication systems are often interrupted during disasters. Establishing a backup satellite communications system to transmit voice and geospatial data can be extremely useful to obtain reports quickly from the field and to transmit information to other locations around the state or the country.
Representative terms from entire chapter: