GIS Moves Online, Enhances Disaster Response with New Data Sources

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[technical] standards and frameworks [for supporting GIS systems], and to do it in a way that is not too prescriptive.”

The new model for coordinating multi-state efforts in a regional response to a natural disaster is the Central United States Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC), a partnership of eight states along the New Madrid seismic zone and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to Russ Johnson, Esri’s director of global public safety. Disaster modeling and planning capabilities integrated with the software are enabling CUSEC to anticipate what could happen in a 7.2-magnitude quake near major oil and gas pipelines that run through the region from the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s not about lessons learned,” says Heltzel, who is a member of CUSEC’s board of directors. “We have kind of a history in emergency management of learning the same lessons over and over. So it’s about lessons applied. The New Madrid fault is the largest naturally occurring threat in this region, and it would be a no notice, come-as-you-are event. If it happens now, it would disrupt the oil and gas pipelines that supply the Eastern Seaboard.”

In planning for Capstone, a multi-state earthquake preparedness exercise scheduled for next year, Heltzel says the biggest shocker was learning that just about every freeway in Kentucky is expected to collapse in a 7.2-magnitude quake. If energy pipelines and freeways are both knocked out in an earthquake, how would oil and gas get transported to the East Coast?

“Nationally, people are realizing what they’re going to gain from these exercises,” says Esri’s Johnson. “The necessity to coordinate and collaborate with your partners has become an imperative.”

Adds Heltzel, “And I’m able to do a better job at leadership, because the right information is there.”

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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