We’re always looking to improve the damage assessment processes.  The State of Arkansas has had a particularly busy 2016 so far.  To date 44 Arkansas counties have received Public Assistance declarations, some have multiple declarations.

You can check out each county’s Preliminary Damage Assessment totals and see how they are distributed throughout the state (it may take a few seconds to load):

I’m curious why some counties have high values where as their neighbors have no values.  I’d love to overlay some historic weather data to see which counties were hit the hardest.  Do smaller sized counties have a disadvantage when reporting?  Which counties receive EMPG funds?  Are there other economic factors to consider?
We’ll also be at the Arkansas Emergency Management conference next week and will try to find out more information.



In the past 10 years we have seen GIS in Emergency Management move from paper maps on the wall to Situational Awareness Viewer Apps to GIS sharing platforms like ArcGIS Online and to mobile applications (like damage assessment apps).  Today’s most successful Emergency Management software is interoperable, geographic based, reliable in any environmental conditions, and accessible on mobile devices.  Here’s the GIS Trends in Emergency Management presentation from a recent Emergency Manager’s Meeting:

GIS Trends in Emergency Management





Last month FEMA released their 2014 Countywide per Capita Impact Indicators and 2014 Statewide per Capita Impact Indicators.  FEMA uses these indicators as one variable when recommending a presidential declaration.  Here are the changes:

2014 Countywide per Capita Impact Indicator:    $3.50  (from $3.45 in 2013)

2014 Statewide per Capita Impact Indicator:   $1.39 (from $1.37 in 2013)

I’ve been tracking these indicators over time since this is one tool FEMA can use to regulate presidential declarations.  These are typical increases that we’ve seen in previous years.



To determine the dollar threshold for your county or state just simply multiply these impact indicators by your county population or your state population.  Crisis Track has been updated to automatically calculate dollars from your damage assessment using the 2014 FEMA impact indicators.


I recently presented at the 2013 Emergency Preparedness and Hazmat Response Conference in Baltimore. Here is a link to access the presentation (apologies for the large download):

GIS in the EOC


Since maps have been printed out on the EOC walls, GIS has played a large role within the Emergency Operations Center. In this workshop we will review some of the latest trends of how technology, GIS in particular, is adapting to better help the Emergency Manager in today’s EOC. We will also provide you with actionable steps for adopting mobile devices, for organizing GIS data before an event, and in selecting new cloud-based applications coming out in today’s market.

Resource List included some Esri training:


NAPSG Standard Operation Guide

FEMA’s GIS Analyst Position Qualifications
FEMA Course:  GIS for Emergency Management
Esri ArcGIS Online Training

FEMA GeoPlatform
Census Language Mapper

When I was working at FEMA, we were trying to get language data from the US Census to overlay onto the Emergency Management GIS applications.  FEMA Teams would go into areas unknowing what languages folks spoke, which, of course, caused problems.

Emergency Management GIS:  Language Map

Language Mapper from US Census

Well, last week the Census just released a new mapping application that maps languages spoken and it is awesome.  The mapping data randomly places a dot for every 75 people (or so) that speaks a language you select, providing a geographic representation of where different languages are spoken in your community.  It’s best used to understand the distribution of language spoken at a county level, good stuff to include in your Emergency Management GIS operations.  Understanding actual counts is more problematic unless you use a geography of a county or greater. Continue Reading

Summer storm season is upon us and many local governments are experiencing local storm damage.  But many local governments only conduct damage assessments when there is a prospect for a FEMA declaration.  Technology and workflow improvements have made damage assessments more efficient to conduct, thus, enabling the Emergency Manager to execute their damage assessment process to document local storm damage.

NWS Local Storm Damage Map

But what are the benefits to the local government in doing so?  Here are five: Continue Reading

A number of Counties I’ve talked with have been curious on why regular time forced labor was allowed for Hurricane Sandy debris management operations.  The answer is that Congress changed the Stafford Act for Debris Removal Assistance to reduce the administration time and expense for Public Assistance grants.

Debris Management Operations

After Hurricane Sandy hit back in November, FEMA issued a revised rule to allow reimbursement for the straight time (or regular time) salaries of local government employees who perform debris management duties for Hurricane Sandy.  Up until this ruling, only overtime was reimbursable.

The good news for local governments is that the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013, which became law last January, changed the Stafford Act to make this rule permanent for all disasters.  It also added other debris-removal-related authorities for FEMA under an “Alternative Procedure for Debris Removal Assistance” including: Continue Reading

After a disaster local government, state representatives, and FEMA work together to perform a preliminary damage assessment (PDA) to determine the impact and magnitude of the damage and survey the needs of the community.

In 2008 the Government Accountability Office reported these initial damage estimates immediately following a disaster have been off by over 55%.

Preliminary Damage Assessment Accuracies

Percentage Difference between Estimated and Actual Costs for 83 Noncatastrophic Natural Disasters from 2000 through 2004

The inaccuracies with the preliminary damage assessments has caused FEMA problems in trying to determine the funding levels needed and caused local communities problems in determining resources needed for recovery efforts, such as workload for debris removal contractors and building code inspectors.

In a May 2012 the DHS Office of Inspector General documented several reasons for the inaccuracies of PDAs: Continue Reading

Emergency Management recently posted an article on the adoption of mobile tablets for mobile damage assessments.  Software companies are noticing this trend as well.  At the Virginia Emergency Management Symposium last week there were three companies that offered solutions mobile damage assessment, including Crisis Track where we exhibited our damage assessment application.

One attendee told me that of the 12 years he’s gone to the conference he’s never seen such a selection for emergency management software solutions with mobile damage assessment capabilities. This is very good for the emergency manager.

What was missing in the article and at the conference was a quick guide for the mobile devices themselves.  Based on our field experience, here are some additional considerations when selecting a device for mobile damage assessment: Continue Reading