Contributed by Terry Strahan; GIS Manager, Houston Operations at Morris P. Hebert, Inc.
As the Emergency Response industry has grown over the years, so has the technology that supports it. In order to record an emergency response event, technical support consisted of paper documentation translated from illegible field notes. Visual recorded documentation included paper maps detailing the location and path of the spill or release. Occasionally, these documents were used for spill response training, but they typically remained stagnant and inoperative.
As computers and electronic documentation became more commonplace, the ability to digitally record events became easier, more efficient, and viable. Technologies and computer software allowed for systematic formats to be accepted across industries, mainstreaming methodology and digital response tactics. The ease of Internet attainability enabled processes, such as the Incident Command System (ICS), to be accessible and incorporated in every emergency response.
Additionally, the average mobile phone has components such as high-resolution cameras and email capability, making digital communications updates plausible from nearly any location. Advanced technology, such as GPS tracking, allows for real-time positional updates at any given time throughout an event. Satellite imagery can provide detailed visual images of the status of a location, and before and after comparison photos to aid in the documentation of the effects of the incident. Free emergency response software is enabling responders to accurately and preemptively respond to escalating emergencies. There are a large number of resources available that can be accessed from the Internet for any incident. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) software listed below is available to responders:
- GNOME (General NOAA Operational Modeling Environment) for Offshore Oil Spill Modeling
- ADOIS (Automated Data Inquiry for Oil Spills) for oil weathering modeling
- CAMEO (Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations) chemical Air Dispersion Modeling
- ESI (Environmental Sensitivity Index) maps for a concise summary of coastal resources that are at risk
In today’s highly technical environment, gathering data from multiple sources, organizing it systematically, displaying information for logistical value, and storing response data can be overwhelming. By embracing and successfully managing continual advances in technology, emergency managers will be able to create a sustainable and proactive emergency management program. However, logistical hurdles and successful interoperability will continue to be an issue as the industry utilizes advancing technology in different capacities and formats.
Terry Strahan is the GIS Manager – Houston Operations at Morris P. Hebert, Inc. Terry has 20 years’ experience applying GIS technology to solving real-world problems in various fields, including Pipeline GIS Management and Environmental and Emergency Response and Gas, Electric and Landbase Data Management. He can be reach at 713-219-1470 ext. 4419.
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