Post by: Kim Stephens
Austin Peay State University’s Geographic Information System center, located in Clarksville, Tennessee has a close working relationship with their local Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency. They have assisted them, and the broader District 7 multi-county Homeland Security District, with crisis and mitigation mapping for many years. I believe this intimate understanding of emergency responders and their needs helped the geographers comprehend how emerging technologies could be applied after a disaster.
Mike Wilson, manager of the GIS Center, and his team obtained funds from the South East Region Research Initiative (SERRI), a program managed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory for DHS, to develop a mobile application called DMARK–Disaster Mitigation and Recovery Kit. The app’s main function is to assist with the collection of damage assessment data via mobile phone, which can then be transmitted back to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in almost real-time, if wireless connectivity is available. According to Douglas Catellier, a GIS analyst and one of the creators, it also has the ability to match damage assessment data with existing, pre-event databases. I think this feature might be its the most powerful contribution:
The data can also be tied together with Property Assessor data so that actual property assessments can be checked and the damage estimates can be tallied using a computer database rather than the pencil and paper method that is currently the most common. DMARK also allows for the damage assessor to photograph and or make a digital voice recording for each property being assessed that is tied directly to that property record in the database. Special needs data can also be collected and the record flagged so that managers can get to those who may have special needs in a timely manner.
According to their press release, the app was unveiled last year as a proto-type and field tested during last May’s (2010) massive Tennessee flood event. This revealed the program’s power–drastically cutting down on the time it took to collect damage assessment data, but it also pointed to several ways the program could be improved. For one, they would like to build it out for all major operating systems–it’s currently only available on Android operating system for mobile phones as well as laptop and desktop applications for administrative management.Another concern was the data form included in the app. It originally was just a standard form, but they would like to allow users to create and download their own forms, according to the release. ”That way, DMARK can be used by emergency personnel for any type of situation, from an earthquake in California to a hurricane in Florida.”
This looks like a great new way to deal with the massive amounts of data that has to be collected after a crisis. For more information visit their website: APSU GIS Center.