FEMA’s S.A.V.E.R. platform: Situational Awareness Viewer for Emergency Response

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Post by: Kim Stephens

Recently I wrote a post entitled Resource Mapping to Foster Community Resilience. In it I proposed an integrated platform that post-disaster would provide citizens, private companies and government agencies with access to pertinent information displayed in an interactive map. I suggested that both citizens and the private sector be able to contribute data, not just government agencies as is the case with existing government-developed platforms.  Several people wrote in with examples of this very concept being put into practice in Africa. J.M. Cooper wrote: “I’m a disaster manager working for the UN in East Africa…my office is working with various organizations, public and private sector, to do exactly what is being suggested.”

Doug Ragan commented:

I think the idea of Resource Mapping for Community Resilience is a great one, and is as well something that many communities have been doing…

In talking with the MapKibera folk (a mapping project in a large slum in Kenya) I see the questions being asked as the next step beyond just using these mapping processes in disasters, but looking about how they fit into increasing the resilience of communities to withstand disasters, and as well using mapping in their everyday lives. The challenges that MapKibera are now faced with are how to increase the capacity of community members in slums to maintain, use and further advance the mapping systems, versus being dependent on outside expertise. In the end, if they can do so, they will assist the community in dealing with and preparing for disasters independently. And, in the end, is that not what we want?

Recently, Harry Colestock, an emergency manager in Virginia, wrote to tell me: “FEMA is constructing a geospatial tool called SAVER (Situational Awareness Viewer for Emergency Response”–not to be confused with their other SAVER program (System Assessment and Validation for Emergency Responders).”This tool will be all things to all people in a disaster, from disaster survivors who can find out if private sector locations are open or closed to senior decision makers who can view large areas for critical infrastructure restoration prioritization. It is not in the “ready for prime time” mode, but the concept appears workable, and the resources of FEMA/DHS to encourage private partners to share data is considerable.”

So either I’m ahead of my time or out of the loop.

For more info on SAVER you can follow the link to a slide-share put together by Heather Blanchard of CrisisCommons; or just read below where I have summarized liberally.

  1. Data will be incorporated into a viewable format  in order to provide for data sharing with the goal of providing a common operating picture for all “emergency management partners”.
  2. Existing viewers such as “LogViz” will be incorporated.
  3. ESRI based
  4. Example capabilities: US Grid search tool; blue force tracking; SMS text message geo-locating; and help for decision making including everything from shelter support to location of points of distribution (PODs).

When Heather prepared this slideshare about a month ago, FEMA was looking for assistance with identifying the following: which data feeds to include; data definitions from data owners; and suggestions and recommendations on how best to use the data. (I’m not sure if they are still looking for this kind of input but I imagine they are.)

I hope the tool is built/designed so  local communities will be able to take ownership of the project and be sure that information vital to them is included.  If not, locals might view it as one more demand from “on-high” to “feed the machine.”  Locals know their community best, obviously, and would be able to persuade the private sector in their area of the importance of contributing and participating. FEMA may have “resources…to encourage private partners to share data,” as Harry suggested, but they don’t have the relationships with the millions of small businesses vital to local areas; only local offices of emergency management have that. The Virtual Alabama project is an example of a bottom-up approach and they are also looking to include private sector data. Duplication of effort aside, at least everyone seems to be moving in the same direction.

One response to “FEMA’s S.A.V.E.R. platform: Situational Awareness Viewer for Emergency Response

  1. You are ahead of your time. I cannot wait for this resource to be released.

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