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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management 4 The Challenge: Providing Geospatial Data, Tools, and Information Where and When They Are Needed In this era of heightened requirements for prompt and effective response, rapid access to disparate geospatial information sources is essential. As shown in Chapters 2 and 3, the emergency management community relies heavily on the ability to discover and use accurate up-to-date information in order to respond to disasters and other emergency events. However, the necessary data are scattered among numerous agencies, there are many impediments to rapid access, the skilled personnel needed to work with the data and tools are often not available in sufficient quantity, and the technological environment is changing constantly, causing endless confusion. This chapter explores these and other related issues in greater depth. Each section of the chapter takes one issue, describes the problem in detail, elaborates on its significance, describes possible solutions, and where appropriate, offers recommendations. This overview and the first three sections deal with issues that require policy changes; the next three focus on operational changes that could be made to enhance the use of geospatial data and tools; the next two sections on tools and training discuss changes that will produce better utilization in the future; and the final section addresses funding. It is important to note that this study deals with the intersection of two distinct communities—the emergency response community and the geospatial community. The issues discussed may have their roots in one community or the other, but the resolution of these challenges will require both communities to work together, as reflected in the recommendations. The fact that both of these are professions in their own right, with
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management the emergency management community often seen as conservative with regard to the adoption of new technologies, presents a challenge. Without the support—and preferably the leadership—of the emergency management community, the geospatial data community’s own efforts will have little benefit. The committee heard from many federal, state, and local emergency management professionals during its deliberations and during the study’s workshop, as well as from several representatives of the private sector and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). All testified to the central importance of geospatial information. The first questions responders ask when a disaster occurs are, Where is it? Where are the victims? Where are the hazards? Where are the resources? The first request from an incident commander is often for a map, and the need is immediate. Responders must act within a “golden hour,” during which delivering victims to appropriate care providers has the best chance of saving lives. Data on the cost savings from more effective emergency management are almost impossible to compile, in part because many benefits, such as lives saved, are impossible to value and in part because any form of controlled experiment in which costs are compared with and without effective emergency management is impossible to conduct. Nevertheless some of the more direct cost savings might be quantified, in certain limited contexts. For example, The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices published an Issue Brief on State Strategies for Using IT for an All-Hazards Approach to Homeland Security (July 13, 2006).1 In the section about geographic information systems (GIS), it has the following paragraph: State and local governments in Virginia combined their efforts in October 2001 to launch the Virginia Base Mapping Program (VBMP) for use in deploying resources and personnel during disasters. At an estimated cost of $8.2 million, this program began delivering DVDs [digital video discs] with GIS technology to 134 cities and counties in February 2003, providing information about transportation systems, private-sector facilities, natural resources, and many other assets. Although measures of lives saved, injuries averted, and property damage avoided are difficult to calculate, it is estimated that in its first year the VBMP saved the state between $5 million and $8 million in operating costs. Responders and managers need to be able to work with several map layers or themes. The most important layer to them is the search grid, which must be established quickly and applied by all agencies working 1 http://www.nga.org/Files/pdf/0607HOMELANDIT.PDF.
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management on the incident. They also need to be able to locate points on the map and on the ground. While street address normally provides an easy way to do this in urban areas, it is often unsatisfactory in rural areas or when street signs and house numbers have been obliterated. The Global Positioning System (GPS) provides an effective and universal alternative, but requires that maps be overprinted with GPS coordinates, using latitude-longitude, Universal Transverse Mercator coordinates, or the proposed National Grid (the National Grid was endorsed and adopted by the Federal Geographic Data Committee in 2001).2 Further, they need to be able to map an event as it changes in real time and to print and distribute updates quickly. From an emergency management perspective, maps enable the location-specific assessment of hazard, risk, vulnerability, and damage. They are required with different levels of geographic detail throughout the emergency management cycle, from the moment an incident occurs through long-term recovery and into mitigation. For most emergency events, the needed geospatial information and services for planning and response are maintained by a variety of public and private organizations in multiple jurisdictions. Government agencies are stewards of large volumes of data, most of which are held by state or local agencies. However, additional key layers, such as critical infrastructure data, are maintained by the private sector.3 As mentioned previously, estimates from the Department of Homeland Security’s Protected Critical Infrastructure Information (PCII) Program are that the private sector owns and operates 85 percent of the nation’s critical infrastructure.4 Many of these organizations are members of local utility notification centers, also referred to as “One Call” or “Call Before You Dig” agencies. However, data are shared with these and other consortia under very restrictive agreements and may not be used for any other purpose, even during emergencies. Emergency preparedness and response require data from many sources both public and private, and critical infrastructure information is but one of many themes that must be accessed. There are also needs for property records, street centerlines, floodplain delineations, and other data that are maintained by the public sector. From an emergency preparedness and response perspective, it is critically important for all sources of data to be utilized to ensure that planners and responders have 2 http://www.fgdc.gov/standards/projects/FGDC-standards-projects/usng/index_html. 3 http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/display?theme=92&content=3760/. 4 See PCII Program overview at http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/interapp/editorial/editorial_0465.xml.
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management the best possible common understanding of the operating picture. However, although many of the data that are needed by emergency managers are already developed by other organizations for other purposes in the general course of local government and community development, various issues and challenges prevent easy access to or use of these data for emergency management. Data on the ownership of land parcels, or cadastral data, provide a particular and in some ways extreme example of the problems that currently pervade the use of geospatial data in emergency management. Vast amounts of such data exist, but they are distributed among tens of thousands of local governments, many of which have not invested in digital systems and instead maintain their land-parcel data in paper form. As with many other data types, it is not so much the existence of data that is the problem, as it is the issues associated with rapid access. In their report Parcel Data and Wildland Fire Management, Stage et al. (2005) argue that cadastral data can provide the most current and accurate information in support of emergency management, but note that access to such information can be limited by a number of factors including the following: Data distribution agreements. In some cases, local units charge for the data or have data licensing agreements that constrict access to the information. Data format. The data might be in a format that is not recognized or usable by responding agencies. These and other issues identified in Chapters 2 and 3 are explored in depth in subsequent sections of this chapter. Local emergency responders generally have vast personal knowledge of their communities, and as a result the use of geospatial information may sometimes be seen as superfluous to their immediate needs. However, when disasters extend far beyond the boundaries of a community, when local responders are unable to respond adequately and professionals without knowledge of the area must be brought in from elsewhere, or when impacts extend to infrastructure such as underground pipes about which local responders have little personal knowledge, then geospatial data and tools become absolutely indispensable to an effective, coordinated response. Conclusion As the committee heard in testimony, geospatial data and tools are essential to all aspects of planning for disaster and to all aspects of community resilience. In this respect, the committee echoes a conclusion of an
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management earlier National Research Council (NRC) study: “Much of the information that underpins emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation is geospatial in nature” (NRC, 2003, p. 1). Without knowledge of where the event has occurred, the area it has impacted, the nature of impact in each part of that area, or the locations of shelters and potential responders, and without access to the tools to analyze such information and to present and distribute it in useful form, the eventual impact of the event will necessarily be greater than it need be, whether measured in loss of life, injury, damage to property, or disruption of essential activities. Also, although many of the geospatial data needed for emergency response generally have already been developed by communities for other purposes, there are a variety of issues that currently impede their use for emergency management. Therefore, steps must be taken to explicitly recognize and meet the geospatial needs of the emergency management field. As its first, overarching conclusion, the committee believes that the importance of geospatial data and tools should be recognized and integrated into all phases of emergency management and, specifically, into the national plans and policies reviewed in Section 3.3 and existing emergency management procedures. RECOMMENDATION 1: The role of geospatial data and tools should be addressed explicitly by the responsible agency in strategic planning documents at all levels, including the National Response Plan, the National Incident Management System, the Target Capabilities List, and other pertinent plans, procedures, and policies (including future Homeland Security Presidential Directives). Geospatial procedures and plans developed for all but the smallest of emergencies should be multiagency, involving all local, state, and federal agencies and NGOs that might participate in such events. 4.1 FOCUS ON COLLABORATION The lack of consistent policy for collaboration, together with protocols and structures for coordination and communication, has long been an impediment to effective collaboration, sharing, and reuse of geospatial data and tools among all levels of government. Since the early 1990s a number of government initiatives and orders have charged federal agencies with coordinating their programs in this specific area. In 1990 the Federal Geographic Data Committee5 (FGDC) was formed and given the lead responsibility for this coordination by an updated Of- 5 http://www.fgdc.gov.
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management fice of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-16.6 In 1994 the FGDC was also charged by Executive Order 12906 to provide leadership in coordinating the federal government’s development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) and to seek the involvement of other levels of government and sectors in this endeavor.7 Federal-level coordination has produced benefits in the development of more than 20 standards supporting the NSDI, the implementation of the NSDI Clearinghouse Network,8 the Geospatial One-Stop,9 and the emerging Geospatial Profile for the Federal Enterprise Architecture.10 State-level coordination has also produced many improvements. The National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) has been an effective mechanism for facilitating coordination among states.11 NSGIC’s activities have leveraged the strong geospatial programs present in a number of states to bring about improvement of coordination activities in many other states. Private-sector and professional organizations have also played important roles in facilitating coordination among various segments of the geospatial community and have likewise produced benefits for participants. However, these efforts have been confined primarily to local jurisdictions and, as such, have proven difficult to replicate across a wider spectrum. Specific examples of effective collaboration exist in many places both across the nation and internationally. There are excellent resources already available that describe the issues involved in collaboration and suggest approaches to enhancing cooperation across jurisdictions. One such project developed by the Geospatial Information and Technology Association (GITA) is entitled GECCo (Geospatially Enabling Community Collaboration).12 Another resource is the work of the Open Geospatial Consortium as part of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Initiative (CIPI) completed in 2002 and 2003,13 and another is the work done by Emergency Management Alberta.14 In these three examples, a common principle is that agreements must be discussed, negotiated, and formalized 6 The current version of the circular can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/circulars/a016/a016_rev.html. 7 http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/pdf/12906.pdf. 8 http://www.fgdc.gov/dataandservices/. 9 http://gos2.geodata.gov/wps/portal/gos/. 10 http://www.fgdc.gov/fgdc-news/geoprofile20050131/. 11 http://www.nsgic.org. 12 http://www.gita.org/ngi4cip/gecco.pdf. 13 http://www.opengeospatial.org/initiatives/?iid=64/. 14 http://www.municipalaffairs.gov.ab.ca/ema_index.htm.
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management before an emergency situation occurs if the impacts of institutional and social barriers to interoperability are to be reduced. Many types of agreements are needed, including the following: Data-sharing agreements among public and private organizations Proprietary agreements so that geospatial data can be used during emergencies without becoming part of the public domain A predefined list of geospatial and other technical personnel and vendors required in support of a response to an event Guidelines for sharing data with the media during and after an event Agreement on interoperability standards to enable the on-demand access, integration, and exchange of relevant geospatial data A process to organize, integrate, and distribute both data internal to an organization and data from other organizations These agreements can take considerable time and energy to put in place, but if they are not, the results can be at a minimum very frustrating and at worst devastating. However, despite efforts at various levels and within sectors, collaboration between levels of government and with other sectors has been difficult to achieve. The FGDC has been seeking to carry out this role for the geospatial community; however it has not achieved complete success due to lack of authority, budget, and resources. The FGDC’s Future Directions Initiative recently provided a high-level look at the nation’s sharing and use of geospatial information and the development of the NSDI.15 The study report finds that geospatial data and information have been identified as valuable assets in conducting the business of government. In the post-9/11 era, there is a heightened appreciation of the importance of geospatial data to support homeland security needs and other critical requirements. There is a clear sense of urgency that the problems associated with intergovernmental and intersector collaboration in geospatial data production, access, and sharing need to be resolved in a timely and comprehensive manner. The Future Directions Initiative study team found widespread agreement that the NSDI requires strong national leadership, that all sectors should be represented in the leadership and governance process, that stable funding and political support are required, and that an effective NSDI requires a clear national strategy to complete and maintain the framework layers. The team found a broad consensus that a strong and 15 “Future Directions—Governance of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure,” final draft report of the NSDI Future Directions Governance Action Team, May 31, 2005.
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management renewed national focus is needed to drive our country toward the production of highly accessible, accurate, and reliable geospatial data. The team believed that a national approach, incorporating all sectors, is necessary to accelerate the production of geospatial data for the NSDI and to ensure its ongoing maintenance. The increasing ubiquity of geospatial data and tools lends urgency to the need for current, complete, accurate, and nationally consistent data. The study team recommended the establishment of a new governance structure to provide national leadership in the development of the NSDI, with participation from multiple sectors. The Committee on Planning for Catastrophe also reviewed the current governance structure of the NSDI in light of this study and discussed whether it was adequate to provide effective coordination across state, local, and federal governments and the private and not-for-profit sectors in the particular context of emergency management. The arguments and conclusions of the Future Directions Initiatives study resonated strongly with the committee, which concluded that the proposed changes in the governance structure would provide a much more effective framework for geospatial data and tools in emergency management. Moreover, the committee felt that it was desirable for the needs of emergency management to be addressed within this larger framework and that the emergency management community should be given a sufficiently strong voice to ensure that these needs are met. Conclusion A national geospatial governance process such as the one described above would do much to improve the attention given to policy and other institutional issues that make it difficult for the different levels of government and other sectors to work together effectively in the development of geospatial capabilities for emergency management. Whatever the root cause of a disaster—terrorism, natural occurrences, or accident—the methods of preparing for, responding to, recovering from, and mitigating the effects of such events, and ideally preventing reoccurrences, are based on a common approach: the collaborative and coordinated use of geospatial data and tools. This cannot happen without the many mutually dependent agencies and organizations charged with protecting our nation’s citizens and infrastructure being able to share their geospatial data and tools efficiently and effectively for emergency management purposes. Moreover the special circumstances of emergency management—the need for speed and for planning in advance without knowledge of where and when disaster will strike, and the extreme costs in damage and loss of life that may result from a bungled response—all give additional merit to arguments in favor of greater collaboration and effective governance.
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management The myriad of individual and organizational collaboration efforts are currently doing much to resolve specific local needs and to provide a positive, dynamic environment for collaboration. Many problems and issues remain, however, and many of these successful efforts have been costly in terms of the time required to develop and maintain them. Missing is a strong, nationally focused governance process to bring the relevant and affected organizations together within the established framework of the NSDI to ensure collaborative approaches to resolving multijurisdictional and national-level issues. The kind of governance process described by the report of the FGDC Future Directions Initiative is the subject of continued discussion within the NSDI community and could significantly improve the environment for collaboration and data sharing during emergency response. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been assigned responsibilities for coordinating geospatial data and tools for emergency management, as detailed in Section 3.2.2. The committee therefore recommends that DHS play a leading role in ensuring that this proposed strengthening of NSDI governance addresses the needs of emergency management. RECOMMENDATION 2: The current system of governance of the NSDI should be strengthened to include the full range of agencies, governments, and sectors that share geospatial data and tools, in order to provide strong national leadership. DHS should play a lead role in ensuring that the special needs of emergency management for effective data sharing and collaboration are recognized as an important area of emphasis for this new governance structure. 4.2 GEOSPATIAL DATA ACCESSIBILITY A critical requirement for emergency preparedness, response, and mitigation is to have rapid access to the most accurate, up-to-date geospatial content, whether it be current wind speed and direction, the location of hospitals, damage assessment data, or the results of predictive flood models. Emergency managers and responders need rapid and reliable access to such content on demand. However, there are numerous issues involved in meeting the challenges of this on-demand, rapid-access requirement. Whether the geospatial data are being accessed from archives or from real-time sensor feeds, the following must always be considered if we are to build a national asset not just for emergency management but also for other homeland security functions: Are geospatial data being collected once and maintained by the organization that can do this most effectively?
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management Is it possible to combine geospatial data seamlessly from different sources and to share them between many users and emergency applications? Are geospatial data available for use in emergency management, or do use conditions restrict their availability? Is it easy to discover which geospatial data are available, to evaluate their fitness for the purpose, and to know which conditions apply to their use? There are both policy and technology impediments to the achievement of these goals. Some of the issues deal with sharing data among organizations, since there are many reasons why a data-producing agency may be reluctant to make its data available, such as concerns related to privacy, confidentiality, or liability. Other issues are more technical in nature and are focused on the interoperability of data and the need for standards that address not only the content and labeling of data, but also real-time discovery of and access to data through clearinghouses and portals. Finally, although data may be accessible, there may be questions related to their quality. This section describes these various challenges. 4.2.1 Data Sharing The unwillingness to share geospatial data is by no means universal, and many entities make their data free and easily accessible for use by the public. Many do not, however, particularly local governments or private utility companies, where some of the most important geospatial data for emergency management often reside. There are a number of reasons for this reluctance to share data, including the following: The desire to sell data to obtain revenue from a costly and valuable asset; The considerable effort required to convert data into a form in which they can easily be shared, especially at the local level; The fear that data may assist terrorists in their activities; A basic distrust of the entity requesting the data or a basic unwillingness to cooperate; A concern for liability if the data are improperly used or are of insufficient quality for a specific use; The fear that once others are aware of the existence of data they may attempt to obtain access to them through freedom-of-information laws; and The most basic fear that the organization will lose control of its data.
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management A workshop panelist told the committee that government agencies were much more willing to share data for homeland security than for other purposes, but were adamant in many cases that access be restricted to that purpose. In some cases, agencies went so far as to agree to forward certain data that they deemed sensitive only after an incident had occurred. Currently, policies for geospatial data sharing within specific levels of government are set by their executive branches. The policies developed for each level of government vary, and enforcement varies within each level from department to department (Sidebars 4.1 and 4.2 contrast two different approaches to policy formulation). Almost none of the policies set for one level of government are imposed on another level, and many local governments have no policies for sharing geospatial data at all. It is impractical to expect that the data-sharing policies of all government entities will be the same. However, it is reasonable to expect that all government and private entities have clearly defined data-sharing policies and guidelines, especially for data relevant to emergency management. As the committee heard in testimony from many individuals and agencies, the lack of such policies and guidelines results in confusion for data custodians and becomes a nightmare for those wishing to acquire data on a large-scale basis either before or during an event. A significant amount of time and staff effort is required to investigate each data owner’s issues and policies and to keep abreast of changes in these policies. For example, New York State has been aggressive in collecting and maintaining geospatial data since the events of September 11, 2001. A representative of New York State’s Office of Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure Coordination reported to the committee that it has had a team assigned to geospatial data collection and maintenance for homeland security and emergency response since 2002 and has collected more than 850 sets of geospatial data. However, it was noted that this involved significant effort because each government entity required personal contact to discuss how its data sets would be used and where they would be stored. In one case the office had been unsuccessful in negotiating for certain utility data from a federal agency. In another case, more than two years of effort were required to obtain the use of a local government’s parcel data. Data produced by federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) and GOCO (government-owned, contractor-operated) national assets are often not included in data-sharing agreements between government agencies. This presents additional barriers to effective data sharing. Utility companies, in particular, have been viewed as organizations that create and compile sophisticated databases but will not readily share these data with others except in emergency situations. The first concern of
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management the better use of geospatial tools in emergency management, as described below. First, all of these possibilities are easier to realize when the necessary data are readily available and easily accessible. Ideally, they will take advantage of interoperability between the systems used by the different entities involved with a disaster event. At their best, network-enabled approaches will allow (with sufficient security) all emergency responders to access data sets and analytical products that are located on servers managed by other responding entities. However, present implementations of geospatial tools are largely, if not entirely, the work of single agencies and not easily distributed. Although such solutions are workable, they are inefficient in the larger context. Moreover, during emergency response, data may well be incomplete and of poor quality, and first responders may be working under very difficult circumstances with limited technical resources. It is very difficult and indeed unlikely that response personnel will take on the task of learning about new tools in this type of situation. Therefore, training on tools must take place so that people working in an emergency situation feel completely comfortable with their use (see further discussion on this topic in Section 4.8). Furthermore, in the report Making the Nation Safer (NRC, 2002, p.162), a section on information management and decision support tools makes the following comment: In a chaotic disaster area, a large volume of voice and data traffic will be transmitted and received on handheld radios, phones, digital devices, and portable computers. Nevertheless, useful information is likely to be scarce and of limited value. Thus, research is needed on “decision-support” tools that assist the crisis manager in making the most of this incomplete information. In some cases, the modeling capabilities exist even though the needed input data are not readily available. For example, loss estimation tools exist; however the underlying nature of the default data on the building inventory, infrastructure, and economic structure of places means that only very generalized estimations can occur, normally at a regional scale. The damage is expressed as the probability of the building being in one of four damage states: slight, moderate, extensive, and total, with a range of generalized damage functions (expressed as repair cost or replacement cost) assigned to each damage class. The loss estimations work best when applied to a class of buildings (e.g., residential), rather than to individual buildings. Moreover, specific loss estimations at the city or county level require supplemental data on building stock and infrastructure, localized data not normally included. Finally, the loss estimations represent “direct” damage, not “indirect” losses such as lost wages, loss of business earnings, or loss of building use, in the overall loss estimation. As one emergency management professional told the committee, a
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management serious impediment to better use of geospatial data and tools for disaster management is that “uninformed, overwhelmed public officials get sold expensive systems they don’t need and don’t know how to use.” Several testified to the need for a “common denominator” set of tools with designs based on user requirements. Moreover, such tools must be simple, easy to use, and tailored to what users really need (for example, functions to assist navigation through the application, functions for basic query and measurement of location, and tools for the management of saved files). At the same time, users often fail to take advantage of capabilities because they are unfamiliar with them. Typically, users only encounter geospatial data and tools during emergencies, so they do not know what is available or how to make use of it. Also, it can be hard to get users to adopt new technology, especially in the midst of an event when novel approaches feel like distractions rather than solutions to emergency responders. To address these challenges, users argue that geospatial data and tools should be integrated as a routine component of emergency planning, training, exercises, and routine incident operations, so that during major disasters they are readily available and easily incorporated. Conclusion Although numerous tools exist and may be very useful in the planning stages, they are not as effectively used during response because (1) the necessary data may be of poor quality or not available during response, or (2) the tools have not yet been fully integrated into regular response activities. The committee concludes that efforts should be made to more effectively integrate the use of geospatial tools into all phases of emergency management, as proposed in Recommendation 1. Additional research is needed on how geospatial data and tools can be used for decision support in the special conditions that prevail during emergency response. RECOMMENDATION 8: The National Science Foundation and federal agencies with responsibility for funding research on emergency management should support the adaptation, development, and improvement of geospatial tools for the specific conditions and requirements of all phases of emergency management. 4.8 EDUCATION, TRAINING, AND ACCESSING HUMAN RESOURCES Presentations to the committee provided ample evidence of the nonuse and underutilization of geospatial data and tools, and previous sections of this report have focused on many of the causes cited by the indi-
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management viduals and agencies that provided testimony. This section focuses on one of the more important and endemic causes: the lack of appropriate education and training in geospatial data and tools among emergency management personnel and a similar lack of education and training in emergency management among geospatial professionals. These deficiencies exist at all levels, from the bottom of agencies to the top, and must be addressed by programs that raise awareness among leaders as effectively as among their staff. It is important, moreover, to recognize that education in the many issues surrounding the use of geospatial data and tools in emergency management that are identified in the report, as well as in underlying principles of geospatial data, such as the correct interpretation of maps, their time-limited nature, and knowledge of their inherent uncertainties, is at least as important as training in the technology itself. While academic emergency management programs at both the bachelor’s and the master’s levels are growing in the United States, the committee heard that the emphasis given to geospatial data and tools varies widely. Geospatial data and tools are not always considered essential from a curricular standpoint and must compete for space in the curriculum with many other subject areas. As an earlier NRC study concluded, “The very people who could leverage this information [geospatial data and tools] most effectively, such as policy makers and emergency response teams, often cannot find it or use it because they are not specialists in geospatial information technology” (NRC, 2003, p. 3). Only by requiring that those in emergency management programs take classes in geospatial data and tools (with a primary focus on emergency management applications), and by including modules in other emergency management classes showing how geospatial data and tools can be used in all phases of emergency management, will it become clear to future generations of emergency managers that geospatial data and tools have significant contributions to make. Furthermore, because geospatial information is often taken at face value, and since the response community is getting greater access to multiple sources of geospatial data, it is critical to ensure that the underlying assumptions, data quality, and uncertainty are conveyed properly. Geospatial data and tools are often so complex that even geospatial professionals sometimes lack the training for proper interpretation of results. Access to technical specialists is key to the proper use and improvement of such mapping products. For example, it is critical to understand the time sensitivity of technical information (e.g., decaying radiation dose from deposited material, relative changes in indoor and outdoor exposure during a hazardous airborne release). In a similar way, geospatial data and tools must be a component of the in-service training offered to the current generation of emergency management professionals. While such content is currently included in
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management some of the training offered by FEMA at its Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in training provided to members of its emergency management planning and response teams, there is a need to include such content in all relevant training programs nationwide. First responders need relatively rudimentary training in geospatial capabilities: they have to be able to communicate what conditions they encounter and what they need to know to fulfill their mission assignments. Incident command- and management-level personnel (e.g., plans and operations section chiefs) need a more sophisticated understanding of geospatial capabilities. Both users and GIS personnel are extremely busy, stressed, and sometimes emotionally volatile during emergency response. This is not the best time to assess needs or to learn new material. Data sources and tools should be presented to emergency management personnel before an incident in a training situation so that they know what will be most useful. The concepts, as well as the end products, have to be documented. It is similarly important that geospatial professionals are acquainted with the emergency management process and that geospatial products are designed to be useful to emergency managers. Many geospatial professionals who become involved in emergency response are not routinely associated with the emergency management community in their normal roles, however. It is essential therefore that training be provided as part of emergency preparedness or, at worst, that it be part of the orientation process when geospatial professionals or volunteers join response and recovery teams. Not only should this training explain the emergency management organization in which the geospatial team will operate, but it should also provide a window into the pressures and time constraints under which personnel will be expected to perform. Emergency responders do not always know how best to articulate their information and imagery needs to geospatial professionals. Sometimes they are unsure of what they need because they do not know what is possible. It is important for technical personnel to spend time helping responders frame their questions. Sometimes, it helps to produce a variety of products and let responders identify those that are most helpful. Working with emergency management personnel in this way can help provide geospatial professionals with feedback on how well geospatial data and tools address the needs of responders, especially in terms of ease of use, interpretational and supporting information, and documentation. The lack of sufficient personnel trained in all aspects of the application of geospatial data and tools to emergency management is a problem at all levels of government, from local to federal, although specific needs vary from agency to agency. In particular, trained personnel with knowledge of imagery products should be included as essential members of the
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management emergency management team. The past two hurricane seasons have shown that the ability to provide these personnel has already been stretched very close to the breaking point. Annual or semiannual exercises that provide the opportunity for involved agencies to meet, exercise, and discuss potential geospatially related successes and pitfalls in the event of an actual disaster can both raise awareness of the importance of an adequate supply of personnel and provide essential experience to those involved. Disasters, by definition, overwhelm the ability of local emergency managers to respond sufficiently, and recent disasters have demonstrated the importance of being able to augment local human resources with professionals and volunteers drawn from both neighboring and remote areas. One of the common problems reported to the committee was the lack of a preestablished team of geospatial professionals to support emergency response within a significant number of emergency management organizations. As a result, when a catastrophe occurs, a significant amount of effort and time is wasted to locate geospatial professionals, bring them into the emergency management organization, and provide them with resources to accomplish their mission. By the time they become available, many of the opportunities to apply technologies to solve problems have passed. As the committee heard repeatedly and as noted in Section 3.2.2, FEMA has only a limited number of permanent geospatial professionals and must rely on reservists to respond to events, which almost inevitably delays deployment. If federal geospatial professionals arrive on scene after state and local staffs have already begun work, it can be difficult to integrate and coordinate the various efforts. There is clearly a need for FEMA to expand the effective size of its permanent staff of geospatial professionals, perhaps through dual use, and to develop strategies that will lead to their more rapid deployment. In addition to having a preestablished team of geospatial professionals, having a mechanism in place to locate additional geospatial professionals to respond to a disaster is essential. Subsequent to the attacks on the World Trade Center, the members of GISMO (Geographic Information Systems and Mapping Operations), the New York City GIS user group, used their contact lists to assist in assembling a team of volunteers. Having this type of information can be invaluable in a disaster that is geographically large and runs over an extended period of time (see Sidebar 4.3). A national system to facilitate access to additional geospatial professionals from a range of related fields could be organized by the Department of Homeland Security, perhaps in partnership with universities as nodes of expertise, and used during disasters to locate and assemble
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management Sidebar 4.3 “Geocoding” Used to Locate Katrina Survivors—Street Addresses Not Very Useful After Hurricane Hit By Marsha Walton, CNN Police, firefighters, and Coast Guard crews may be the first to come to mind when naming the lifesavers during disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. It might be time to add geographers to that list. In the sometimes desperate hours following Katrina’s landfall, experts in geographic information services—GIS—helped search and rescue crews reach more than 75 stranded survivors in Mississippi. One of their most valuable tools was a process called “geocoding,” the conversion of street addresses into GPS coordinates. With streets flooded, street signs missing, and rescue crews unfamiliar with the Gulf Coast area, street addresses were not very useful. “They would get phone calls, or the Coast Guard would come in with addresses in their hands and say, ‘I need a latitude and longitude for this address.’ So the GIS professionals would do a geocoding, give it to the Coast Guard who got on helicopters and saved lives,” said Shoreh Elhami, director of GISCorps. Elhami, co-founder of GISCorps, said that since 2004, the organization’s volunteers have responded to disasters such as the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, as well as efforts to provide humanitarian relief, sustainable development, economic development, health, and education in all parts of the world. The Corps had 20 volunteers on the ground in Mississippi less than 48 hours after Katrina’s landfall. GISCorps is part of URISA, the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association. Elhami said more than 900 qualified volunteers have GIS experience, and range from city and state government officials to academics to people in private industry. Volunteer Beth McMillan, a field geologist and professor at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, worked in Pearl River County, Mississippi, a couple of weeks after the storm. “A couple of days after the hurricane hit, I felt so down, and wondered what I could do. I could give a little bit of money, but that doesn’t seem very satisfying. To be able to have a skill that can be used is much more empowering, it doesn’t make you feel so helpless,” said McMillan, back in Little Rock…. Volunteers are never sure of the conditions they might face when deployed to disaster sites or developing countries. Assignments usually last between two weeks and two months. McMillan said her many experiences “roughing it” as a field geologist helped her deal with the living conditions in Mississippi. “They said be prepared for really hot weather, and bring a sleeping bag,” she said. “I slept in an empty U.S. Department of Agriculture building on a cot, with probably several hundred other people. But it did have power, bathrooms, and showers, so conditions were not as bad as they could have been,” she said…. SOURCE: Excerpted from Walton (2005).
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management teams. Such a system could also promote appropriate training, by establishing and implementing the minimal qualifications needed to be listed. RECOMMENDATION 9: Academic institutions offering emergency management curricula should increase the emphasis given to geospatial data and tools in their programs. Geospatial professionals who are likely to be involved in emergency response should receive increased training in emergency management business processes and practices. RECOMMENDATION 10: The Federal Emergency Management Agency should expand its team of permanent geospatial professionals, and develop strategies that will lead to their more rapid deployment both in response to events and in advance of events when specific and reliable warnings are given. RECOMMENDATION 11: The Department of Homeland Security should establish and maintain a secure list of appropriately qualified geospatial professionals who can support emergency response during disasters. 4.9 FUNDING ISSUES Along with the lack of an effective governance process (see Section 4.1), funding is usually identified as a major barrier to effective use of data in preparing for and responding to disaster events. For many organizations, particularly those in states and localities that are comparatively resource poor, there is inadequate funding to build even a basic geospatial capability. For others, funding is lacking for ongoing programs to maintain and update existing geospatial data, for the servers and support services needed to ensure effective access to and use of these data for converting data formats to meet a standard, and for creating the metadata needed to make data accessible through the NSDI. Finally, others lack the capability of participating in coordination activities due to shortage of personnel and funds. At the state level, geospatial preparedness is often not seen as sufficiently important to qualify as a target for funds that flow from federal homeland security programs. Several points are evident: different locations have different sets of needs and requirements across the country; not all of the perceived funding problems can be fixed by the infusion of more money; and funding for geospatial investments has often not been seen as a high priority. A National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) study, conducted in the late 1990s and titled Geographic Information for the 21st Cen-
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management tury: Building a Strategy for the Nation (NAPA, 1998), identified geospatial information and technology as key components of substantial elements of the U.S. economy. The report cited some of the major sectors of the economy that are impacted by geographic information and stated that geographic information plays a role in about one-half of the economic activities of the United States (NAPA, 1998, p. 11). Although not focused on budget or funding issues, the report also stated that competing priorities at the time, such as the year 2000 computer problem, created the reality that in the absence of additional major funding, only part of the highest-priority efforts would be implemented and that fulfillment of the stated goals for the NSDI was many years away (NAPA, 1998, p. 66-67). It is not known with any accuracy how much money is spent by the many units of government for geospatial activities. In part this is due to differences in the programming and budgeting systems that exist among the nation’s levels of government, along with the fact that much of the nation’s resource of geospatial data and tools is acquired and used as part of a mission program, not as a specifically identified activity. However, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated that billions of dollars are spent each year by federal agencies and their partners on geospatial data, services, technology, and expertise (GAO, 2004), and a global figure for 2000 of $12 billion to $20 billion was given by Longley et al. (2001, p. 360). With this amount of money being appropriated annually to sustain the existing—but in many ways inadequate—resource of geospatial data and tools, it is essential that ways in which current funding could be used more effectively be found, in addition to calling for new funding. As noted in Section 1.1, the past two decades have seen dramatic increases in the use of geospatial data and tools in many aspects of human activity. Data needed for emergency management are often collected, managed, and disseminated for other purposes, particularly in the case of the framework and foundation data defined in Section 1.3.2. Collection of variables particularly important for emergency management might be piggybacked on existing data collection activities at minimal additional cost, and similar economies might be found in the costs of data dissemination. Many changes will be needed in existing practices if geospatial preparedness is to be funded more adequately. While this has proven difficult, some components of government have made significant progress by Adopting a clear strategic direction that lays out future objectives; Initiating changes early within the organization in order to address personnel, structural, or other adjustments that affect employee performance;
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management Planning a funding bridge to enable transition from current business processes to new ways of conducting business; and Establishing customer expectations that help to drive the needed changes but are also realistic about the pace at which changes can be made. The committee heard in testimony that the most critical gaps in current funding appear to be A lack of funds that can be used in shared arrangements to leverage the funding resources of multiple organizations; A lack of funds for coordination activities among multiple organizations; and The lack of a long-term base of funding to sustain geospatial data collection, maintenance, and dissemination over time. Several previous efforts have been explored to address these needs, and it is useful to examine them as potential guidance in any renewed attempts to address financing issues, whether through new mechanisms, legislation for grant programs, or increases in agency appropriations. The FGDC conducted a study in 2000 to explore alternative mechanisms for “Financing the NSDI.”25 The study report found that an opportunity existed to provide a national capacity through public-private partnerships that could underwrite information technology investments for geospatial data and tools, and could provide the capital financing that local, regional, industry, and interest group consortia need to form and grow. The report recommended ways in which these consortia could pool and align intergovernmental and public-private investments in geospatial data acquisition and maintenance; decision support applications; and supporting hardware, software, and integration services. Financial mechanisms such as government-backed bonding authority for use by local governments, revolving loan programs, and other debt structures were suggested for use in a range of capital planning strategies. Financing would be dependent on the use of consensus standards for interoperability from recognized standards development organizations and other NSDI design elements as underwriting criteria. Other NRC reports have also discussed funding options for the NSDI and related issues (NRC, 1993, 1994), and several legislative proposals have identified increased funding as a need. As one example among many, in 2003 a committee formed within the Spatial Technologies Indus- 25 http://www.fgdc.gov/publications/fgdcpubs.html.
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management try Association (STIA) identified the need for increased funding and a government-wide legislative base for establishing and maintaining geospatial preparedness for homeland security, national defense, electronic government, and other purposes. The proposal was presented in testimony to the House Committee on Government Reform by STIA President Fred Corle.26 One of the key elements identified was a major grant program to assist non-federal levels of government to build and maintain the NSDI and to achieve geospatial preparedness. Key elements of the grant program were that it was to provide matching funds as an incentive for geospatial preparedness and would require participants to adhere to standards for interoperable access, sharing, and use as part of the development and implementation of the NSDI. To make it easier for organizations to find grant programs that they can utilize to obtain funding for various activities, the federal government has taken steps recently to identify grant opportunities through its electronic government initiatives. The FGDC has a grant program called the NSDI Cooperative Agreements Program to assist the geospatial data community through funding and other resources in implementing the components of the NSDI.27 This program is open to federal, state, local, and tribal governments, and to academic, commercial, and nonprofit organizations and provides small seed grants to initiate sustainable ongoing NSDI implementations. This program could be used for geospatial preparedness activities. The Department of Homeland Security has a number of grant programs for emergency management in which geospatial activities could be included as part of the applicant’s proposal. However, there is no comprehensive grant program that would provide funds for coordinated actions across the nation to better organize, manage, share, and use the geospatial data and technology that exist now and are being acquired for emergency management and other important public purpose and business reasons. Conclusion The committee concludes that the funding available to achieve geospatial preparedness for disasters is not sufficient to meet the need. Adequate resources must be made available to support existing mandates and new initiatives that integrate geospatial resources into all phases of emergency management and facilitate the acquisition and sharing of geospatial data for emergency management. In particular, resources such 26 http://reform.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Corle%20Testimony1.pdf. 27 http://www.fgdc.gov/grants/.
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Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management as grants need to be made available at the state and local levels where many of the emergency management activities occur, but where resources may be lacking to adequately support the development of the geospatial capabilities needed. RECOMMENDATION 12: To address the current shortfall in funding for geospatial preparedness, especially at the state and local levels, the committee recommends: (1) DHS should expand and focus a specifically designated component of its grant programs to promote geospatial preparedness through development, acquisition, sharing, and use of standard-based geospatial information and technology; (2) states should include geospatial preparedness in their planning for homeland security; and (3) DHS, working with OMB, should identify and request additional appropriations and identify areas where state, local, and federal funding can be better aligned to increase the nation’s level of geospatial preparedness.
Representative terms from entire chapter: