A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a spatially referenced framework for gathering, managing, and analyzing data. Incorporating GIS into disaster response and recovery cycles has improved planning, response times, collaboration, and communication during the most challenging and dynamic circumstances – providing the private and public sectors the ability to collaborate more efficiently and effectively.
At Hagerty, we believe GIS is a useful tool for all phases of the disaster management cycle and work to support our clients with a program that meets their unique needs.
PREPAREDNESS, MITIGATION, & RESILIENCE
Implementing preparedness, mitigation, and resilience-building strategies prior to natural disasters is essential to reduce loss of life and property. GIS can be used to improve these efforts by:
- Understanding Hazards. For communities to effectively withstand and recover from disasters, they must understand the potential severity and breadth of disaster impacts. Pre-disaster hazard analysis, such as multi-hazard enhanced risk assessments, can help emergency managers navigate important decisions. Moreover, with property-level information, emergency managers and mitigation planners can better understand how disasters may impact specific homes and businesses within their community. Additionally, GIS-based hazard analysis can be leveraged to understand impacts to demographic groups (improving social equity); changing development patterns; or implementing mitigation measures where they will have the greatest impact.
- Creating Realistic Training and Exercise Experiences. Including GIS-based analysis in exercise and training scenarios can improve the experience for participants by grounding scenarios a realistic profile of hazards and assets within the community. As an example, for a recent active threat exercise, Hagerty performed proximity analysis by mapping the location of ambulances and drive times to local hospitals to improve decision-making during the event.
- Communicating Risk to the Public. Many communities struggle to convey the severity or urgency of potential disaster impacts to their residents, which can translate to less effective mitigation or resilience outcomes. GIS is an effective risk communication tool capable of conveying important information like potential damage to critical infrastructure and personal property. Hagerty has effectively leveraged ESRI StoryMaps, a GIS-based web application combining text, photographs, and mapping which conveys a thematic narrative to the user, to convey risk in support of mitigation measures.
As catastrophic events continue to increase in frequency and magnitude, speed and efficiency of disaster response times are imperative in preventing significant losses in human life, associated damage to infrastructure, and promoting business continuity. GIS can be used to improve response outcomes by:
- Improving Situational Awareness. GIS can be a game-changing tool during a response operation. Its applications in response are endless, if a jurisdiction has access to requisite geographic data.
The recovery phase occurs after initial disaster relief has been provided with the goal of returning property, society, and individual livelihood back to a stabilized condition. Recovery also allows private and public organizations the opportunity to access natural conditions, updating data and systems to represent geological changes that resulted from the natural disasters. GIS can improve recovery outcomes by:
- Understanding the Scope of Disaster Impacts. Damage assessments are a critical first step in the recovery process, and GIS is an essential tool for aggregating and visualizing the assessment findings. Previously, Hagerty has supported the development of comprehensive dashboards that convey the severity of damage to each surveyed asset (e.g., a home), and the location of each asset to understand how damage was spread across the community.
- Assisting Cost Recovery and Grant Management Efforts. Often, mapping can provide an enhanced understanding of how a disaster has affected public infrastructure and can support efforts to recover disaster-related expenditures from the federal government. GIS has applicability to multiple funding programs such as Community Development Block Grants (e.g. unmet needs assessments), Public Assistance (e.g. damage inventories), and Hazard Mitigation Assistance (e.g. acquisition applications).
- Improving Debris Monitoring Efforts. After a disaster, GIS can be used in a variety of ways to improve debris collection and monitoring efforts. GIS can help identify disposal site locations, as well as create a more comprehensive picture of the conditions on the ground through mobile GIS applications that can pinpoint locations of various types of debris, helping to streamline debris clearance efforts.
- Informing Redevelopment. GIS can be used to make smart decisions about redevelopment after a disaster destroys a community’s assets. For example, Hagerty can assist with suitability analysis, a GIS-based process used to determine where critical infrastructure should be located based on criteria such as demographic needs or proximity to existing infrastructure.