Applications of geospatial technologies for hurricane disaster management

A significant U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-funded study was undertaken following Hurricane Katrina to identify successes and failures of geospatial technologies for response and recovery along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The study entitled 'Capturing Hurricane Katrina Data for Analysis and Lessons-learned Research, in tandem with the report to the President entitled 'The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned, provide insight into the usefulness of geospatial technologies for hurricane disaster management. Findings from the DHS-funded study revealed the need to: develop and maintain centralized geospatial database comprised of locally accurate data, develop and improve geospatial capabilities at local/state/federal levels, identify response culture similarities and differences that require standardized or customized geospatial products, develop input data criteria for analytical models, and develop tools that rapidly delineate damage severity and extent on post-disaster RS imagery is critical for effective disaster management (Lessons Learned Final Report, 2008). A similar finding is presented in the report to the President as a 'Lesson Learned'. The 'Lesson' specifies the need for coordination between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency to oversee efforts aimed at the Federal government's capability to quickly gather environmental data and to provide the public and emergency responders the most accurate information available. The rapid dissemination of information can help determine whether it is safe to operate in a disaster environment or to return to an area after evacuation. Further, the DHS is encouraged to work more closely with its State and local homeland security partners to plan and to coordinate an integrated approach to debris removal during and following a disaster.

The importance of geospatial technologies for hurricane disaster response was further illustrated in the report to the President in APPENDIX B - WHAT WENT RIGHT by the story of National Guard member Ronnie Davis. Davis, also an employee of the USDA National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), combined the NRCS's digital data that are collected to develop conservation plans and generated in Texas, with the NRCS Digital Togographic Support System to create much needed maps of the affected regions of Mississippi. The result was that over 800 maps were delivered to support sector operations, needs of local police and law enforcement officers arriving from other states, and FEMA. Similarly, NVision Solutions Inc., the map producing entity at the local Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Hancock County, MS, was a rich source of information on the development and distribution of geospatial products and tools in the aftermath of Katrina at a location generally considered to be the epicenter of the storm.

There are a variety of geospatial tools available for hurricane emergency management purposes. Among the most widely used geospatial tools are the Sea, Lake, and Overland Surge (SLOSH) model developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),

United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the National Weather Service (NWS) used to predict storm surge heights; FEMA's Hazards U.S. Multi-Hazard (HAZUS-MH) model that estimates potential losses from earthquakes, hurricane winds, and floods; and the HURREVAC computer program which is used to track hurricanes and assist in evacuation planning.

The SLOSH model provides information on the potential for flooding both at the coast and inland by computing water height over a geographical areas covered by a network of grid points (Jarvinen & Neumann, 1985). The authors (Jarvinen and Neumann, 1985) state that the SLOSH model's primary use is to define flood-prone areas for evacuation planning, as evacuation of the flood plain is the planned response of many coastal communities to the threat of a hurricane landfall. There is some evidence that the coarse resolution of the SLOSH polar grids with cell sizes of 500-7000 m results in too much uncertainty in storm surge flooding estimates. Zhang et al., (2008) present results of the Coastal and Estuarine Storm Tide (CEST) model for Hurricanes Andrew (1992), Hugo (1989) and Camille (1969) that uses a fine-resolution grid with cell sizes of 100-200 m which reduced uncertainty when compared with field-measured elevations of high water marks and the locations of debris lines. Nevertheless, the SLOSH model is widely used and accepted for modeling both historic and predicted storms.

Tran et al., (2009) showed the HAZUS-MH model to be a valuable planning tool when assessing implications of the combined effects of storm surge with hurricane force winds Using HAZUS analysis for estimating disaster associated losses, storm surge, residual flooding, and wind damage associated with hurricane categories 1 thru 5 enabled planning for health care contingencies for predicted damage and flooding that would occur at various levels of storm intensity. Vickery et al., (2006) compared modeled and observed losses for Hurricanes Andrew, Hugo, Erin, and Opal; and they concluded that there was overall agreement at the zip code level but suggested that the damage and loss models may underestimate the small losses that occur at lower wind speeds (less than 100 mph). This underestimation is less significant for regional assessments but could become problematic for loss estimation in smaller areas.

HURREVAC is a U.S. federally-funded program supported by FEMA and USACE. State emergency management agencies in coastal areas often implement the HURREVAC model for hurricane storm tracking and decision processes associated with evacuation. Combining the National Hurricane Center Forecast/ Advisory product with data from various state Hurricane Evacuation Studies (HES) helps local emergency managers determine proper evacuation decision time and the arrival time of storm effects including wind and storm surge (HURREVAC, 2010). There are many forecast features available including hourly wind ranges, track predictions, and hourly error ellipses, and the display shoes storm position and size at certain hours of the forecast. Concentric rings represent the extent of tropical storm force winds and output of many features is available in GIS format. These and many other models designed to aid emergency managers require significant investments of hardware, software, and analyst training to optimize their usefulness. Rapidly produced products available in a web-based environment are becoming more available and necessary to emergency managers. Hodgson et al., (2010) describe the need for rapid identification and acquisition of RS products immediately following a disaster. The Coastal Response Research Center, a partnership between the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of

Response and Restoration (ORR) have created the Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA®) is a web-based GIS tool designed to assist both emergency responders and environmental resource managers who deal with incidents that may adversely impact the environment (ERMA). The Southeast Region Research Initiative (SERRI) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) facilitated and funded research at Mississippi State University designed to integrate geospatial technologies for the rapid characterization of potential damage from land-falling hurricanes. A variety of geospatial models have been developed using damage data collected following hurricane Katrina that estimate forest damage, damage to infrastructure, and damage extent and severity. The damage extent and severity models are available within 24 hours of hurricane landfall and require three model factors: estimates of surge, wind, and rain. All models have been reviewed by a State advisory committee that comprises the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the Mississippi Forestry Commission (MFC) and are currently being transitioned to the State agencies.

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Renewable Energy Eco Friendly

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable.

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