Free the Data! Using the Mobile Platform to Push Critical Information to Disaster Victims

The public is a resource not a liability in a disaster. Craig Fugate, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) , discusses the use of public information provided during catastrophic disasters to define a common operating picture (COP) for making mission critical decisions.

Jan 19th, 2011

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00:01You got to go with this kind of this hypothesis and that is, the public's not a liability, they're a resource.

00:06And that oftentimes it's in their own nature to try to share information, and they now have tools they never had before.

00:13And they're doing it every day.

00:15They're doing it just for their routine, how they communicate with friends and families, but also during a crisis.

00:21And we're seeing this more and more.

00:22For those of you that do the hashtag stuff, try following this hashtag, SMEM, social media and emergency management.

00:29And you're really starting to see how local and state emergency managers are looking at tools like Twitter and Facebook...

00:33...not so much as a broadcast tool, but really looking at how people are moving information around...

00:38...and how they incorporate that into their tools.

00:41For us, it's this ability as we got USAR teams and other folks moving into an area.

00:48How do we know what's going on?

00:50We know we're going to get reports from local government.

00:51We know we're going to get reports from the news media.

00:55But they can't be everywhere.

00:56They don't have the density the public has.

00:59And again, for the USAR teams to be most effective, they've got to go where the most critical search needs are.

01:04They don't have time to get there and spend a lot of time assessing it.

01:08So we're going to take remote-sensing data but quite honestly in this case, it may be 6 to 12 hours before we get that analysis.

01:15Well we're going to have USAR teams arriving in that window.

01:18So where do they start?

01:20How do they know that this building is now a priority?

01:23And again, locals are going to be the initial information response.

01:28But if the public is a resource, then how do we get their information...

01:33...and put it in a format so the teams can start looking through this and start saying...

01:37...we're getting a lot of reports out of this area about collapsed structures, but there seems to be a lot of life signs as well.

01:45Because a lot of this information is people talking about I'm trapped or something's happened.

01:50That starts providing us information that we would probably never see if we just discounted what the public was doing.

01:57And the other part of that is is that the comm's got to be up.

02:00Well there's some new technology coming out.

02:02I got to see some stuff that one of our other companies that does the Wi-Fi...

02:06...about doing mesh radio networks to light up Wi-Fi bubbles in areas that lost all their comm... that people's phones, if they have Wi-Fi, can start sending out information again.

02:17So we're starting to see this merger of how people are communicating every day.

02:25The ability to bring this into an environment where our rescue teams can actually see it in real time...

02:30...and use that to refine their decisions in a situation that's extremely dynamic...

02:35...time is critical and we cannot wait to have the best possible answer.

02:41We got to take the information we got, and if that information is coming from the public, we need to see it.

02:47Last piece of this, we also have to share information with the public.

02:52Oftentimes in a disaster environment, they're experience is oftentimes limited to what they can see and how far they can walk.

02:59But if they have connectivity, how do we get information out to them so it's useful to them in a mobile platform...

03:06...oftentimes, with minimal or low bandwidth?

03:08And so it's our ability to take and not only receive information, but actually push information back out...

03:14...particularly information that's critical about where they can get help...

03:17...or situations that are dynamic they need to know about so they can protect themselves.

03:23And so we look at this environment using geospatial information...

03:28...and putting it in the context of this person that we call the survivor so that it is referenced to their location...

03:35...their needs, their information.

03:38USGS and the National Weather Service, probably for me is the data and the movement toward putting data feeds out there... key to this because we know that the public will understand things much better if it's given to them in the reference...

03:52...well, what does it mean to me and my house?

03:55And the resolution, the ability to put that information out and the ability to people to have those viewers... look at that information, means that we no longer do tornado warnings and put one out for a whole county.

04:08We're actually putting it out as a track in a location.

04:12And we can now give that to you and you can bring that in and people are building apps... you can actually see that on your phone and go, my phone knows where I'm at and guess what, I'm in the path of a tornado.

04:21That has a whole different meaning that I happen to be in an area...

04:25How many people have been somewhere where a tornado warning has been issued...

04:27...and you have no reference point of where that tornado is to your location?

04:32And now with a phone and the products the weather service is putting out that is geocoded... now have the ability to say, I'm here and this is, I'm in the way.

04:45And that ability to provide that information to the public...

04:48...and give it to them in that mobile platform is going to start changing, I think, again.

04:53The importance and the products we put out there to the public in a crisis, so, again...

05:02Two-way communication with the public, it's about being mobile, it's about freeing our data...

05:06...and putting out your data views and don't necessarily lock people into looking at our web page...

05:10...our viewer, our style, because people are mashing up and finding ways to do stuff with information we never knew was possible...

05:17...and it's changing outcomes.

05:19And in the disaster, there is no way that we could ever anticipate every issue, every situation.

05:26But if we look at the public as a resource, they're going to figure out stuff if we give them the tools they need... make the best possible decision about what's going on in their community. Thank you very much.

Copyright 2016 Esri
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