Contributor: Catherine Bohn, GISP, CFM
As part of Dewberry’s Disaster Cadre
, my first deployment was in 1999, providing geospatial support of FEMA mitigation efforts after Hurricane Floyd.
The number of requests for geospatial products to help people recover from the event was overwhelming. We had to find a solution that could be produced quickly while meeting the needs of the requestors. I worked closely with more than 15 geospatial analysts on this, and the collaborative team environment we created was exceptional. The work was fast paced, we worked long hours, and I constantly challenged my geospatial skills—I learned a lot! After five months, I knew I wanted to focus my career on using geospatial technologies for emergency management. Developing a Geospatial Application Tool Used to Estimate Hurricane Debris
Since my first deployment, I’ve also worked in North Carolina after Hurricane Isabel, Florida after a series of hurricanes in 2004, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after Hurricane Katrina. After these experiences, I helped developed a geospatial application tool used to estimate debris from hurricane events. Based on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ debris prediction model, our tool helps local communities get a better understanding of the amount of debris generated from a storm. It can also be used to plan for a disaster event, giving a better understanding of necessary resources. Facilitating Geospatial Information Sharing Before, During, and After Disaster Events
Currently, I’m part of a team working with the Department of Homeland Security to develop a federal interagency Geospatial Concept of Operations (GeoCONOPS) to facilitate geospatial information sharing before, during, and after disaster events. GeoCONOPS will help local communities figure out what the authoritative data sources are for disaster-specific geospatial data.
We’re also working with FEMA to develop the Debris Estimator; an application tool that uses a geospatial sampling methodology to estimate debris amounts, specifically after a hurricane event. We tested the Debris Estimator after Hurricane Irene in 2011 and compared the Debris Estimator amounts with actual amounts of debris picked up by removal contractors. The extremely promising results were within 10 percent of each other!
We’re now updating the Debris Estimator based on lessons learned from the Hurricane Irene field test, to include standardizing the field data collection methodology, and incorporating additional geospatial data layers. We’ll then develop a methodology for other disaster events such as ice storms, tornados, and flooding. It All Comes Down to Helping Our Communities
Seeing local, state, and federal agencies use these tools to help communities better understand the impacts of a disaster has had a huge impact so far on my career. It makes me even more excited about the possibilities of geospatial technologies for emergency management.