The Big Picture: The role of mapping in assessing disaster damages
Almost two years to the day of the Joplin tornado anniversary, a devastating EF-5 tornado hit the town of Moore, Oklahoma on May 20, 2013. The path of the Moore tornado was 17 miles long and two miles wide. After a devastating event like a tornado, assessing the damages and painting a picture of the affected community is of utmost importance. The better information first responders and emergency managers have about damaged areas, the more effectively they can prioritize areas of needs and deliver services.
From the start of the response, geospatial teams from across multiple agencies and the private sector had a game plan and an expectation of deliverables needed to bring clarity to a complex situation. Almost immediately after the tornado, our geospatial analysts began producing baseline information maps (i.e. demographics, population density, and economic statistics) to provide situational awareness to the response teams.
Within the first few hours after the tornadoes stuck Moore, Civil Air Patrol (CAP) was leveraged by the State of Oklahoma to collect aerial imagery along the tornado path. FEMA added to this effort via a Mission Assignment to collect ground photos of the devastation. All of the images collected from the CAP team were geo-tagged and uploaded to the FEMA Geoplatform. In addition to the CAP imagery, FEMA leveraged a new DHS contract for high-resolution aerial imagery. Combined, this imagery assisted us in delivering house by house geospatial damage assessments of the affected area. A major contributor to this effort was the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). Collectively, the FEMA/NGA team was able to deliver highly accurate geospatial damage assessments within four days of the event. These assessments were leveraged by various response and recovery programs across all levels of government to focus their efforts on the most heavily impacted sites. Read more.