Mobile App to Help with Damage Assessment Data Collection

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.

it's real :)

Image via Wikipedia

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.


7 responses to “Mobile App to Help with Damage Assessment Data Collection

  1. Eero Pykalainen

    I ran into a program called PoiMapper ( few weeks ago. It’s scope is similar to DMARK but it seems to have more features available.

  2. The use of both mobile phone and web based mobile damage assessment appears to be taking off. Broward county Florida uses both and they were created in house. You can see their web based version on their website. It is based on Florida’s standard levels of flood and damage for structures. Another option is the arcgis application made by geocove in Orlando. We are considering geocove for preliminary damage assessment and it too can be tied to the pa office. It has more features and appeals to the health & human services needs of public health as well as the building department. The Broward app can be distributed to the public as a crowd sourcing method of obtaining preliminary damage assessments. The geocove app would be used by our personnel on existing mobile laptops. Another version is open sourced through arcgis itself but is not turnkey, it would require an experienced arcgis IT person.

  3. Thanks Dale, that is so interesting: I wanted to include the info here, so here’s a long quote:

    Here’s how it works:

    Before the storm, print the Home Damage Assessment photos and include them in your hurricane kit.
    Bookmark the Home Damage Assessment application on your cell phone or other mobile device at:

    After the storm passes and it’s safe to go outdoors, survey the damage to your home.
    Compare your home to the four Home Damage Assessment photos, and select the one that best represents the condition of your home for damage level and/or flood level. It doesn’t matter if you live in a single family home, condo, townhouse, apartment, duplex or mobile home.
    Choose how you will report your damage: phone, Web site or mobile app.
    Phone: Call the Hurricane Hotline at 3-1-1 or 954-831-4000. Provide your street address, city and zip code, and the number of the picture that best represents the level of damage to your home. You must have access to the photos to make a report, as Hurricane Hotline call takers will only be able to accept numbers “1-4” as damage levels and “5-6” for flood levels.

    Web site: Return to this page and click REPORT YOUR DAMAGE located below and follow the instructions.

    Mobile App: When using the mobile application, the cell phone’s location is automatically geo-coded to a map. You will only need to select the photo that best represents the level of damage to your home.

    Resident reports will provide a critical early indication of where major damage has occurred. These reports do not constitute a request for individual assistance and do not replace the normal grid-by-grid assessments performed by County assessment teams.

  4. Richard Halquist, FPEM

    We use GeoCove. It provides a turnkey solution and does not require a GIS master to use. The newest release can be installed on the fly. Even without connectivity, assessments can still be collected and as soon as connectivity is retored, data synchronizes automatically.

    Very simple to provide a link to Google Earth or web-app for maximum situational awareness and developing a common operating picture! We even use it for tracking pandemic threat. Very slick!

  5. Thanks so much for that info. I’m going to take a look at GeoCove.

  6. Just this week we got brief in Santa Rosa County Fl by our GIS who have been working on a similar program for damage assessments, I plan on looking at some of these others and passing them on.

  7. Oceanit developed a system called MERCI that works with the iPhone and iPad2 for rapid damage assessments. Data is stored offline on the device. It has a common operational picture (COP) backend for Emergency Operation Centers (EOC’s). The system is in use by the Hawaii State Civil Defense.

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