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GCN : July 2015
[BrieFing] NIST.GOVLUCIANMILASAN/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM GCN JULY 2015 • GCN.COM 7 Thanks to a new tool from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, citi- zens and local emergency managers can get a better understanding of the relative risk and impact of a variety of disasters. The interactive tool maps histori- cal data to help communities plan for disasters and gain insight into how assistance funds are allocated. FEMA released the raw historical data and made it available through interac- tive and readable maps as part of the OpenFEMA initiative. Users can view disaster declarations by hazard type, location, year (back to 1953) and the financial support pro- vided through an easily viewable and clickable interface, while maintaining access to raw datasets for research and analysis. Summaries of FEMA support for fire, preparedness, mitigation, individual assistance and public assistance grants are available as well. The tool offers a step-by-step search process and displays immediate results that include preparation tips, which is a helpful resource during the current hurricane season. Those in affected areas can research the history of hur- ricanes in their communities and learn what they can do to prepare effectively based on historical data and FEMA’s experience. “Providing data in its raw format and also building visualization tools al- low people to look at their past history, look at what kind of hazards they are vulnerable to, and look at the fre- quency of disaster declarations and the impacts,” FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said in a blog post. Visualizing the hot spots where disasters and recovery money overlap makes it easier to understand disas- ter impacts and helps people ask the right questions when it comes to why certain communities have historically received the assistance they have from state and local governments, Fugate added. The data can also help governments more accurately anticipate the finan- cial impact of a disaster. If a commu- nity shares characteristics with another that has experienced a major disaster, local emergency management will have a better idea of how to plan and allocate resources for future potential disasters. FEMA’s motivation is simple and powerful. “By providing this informa- tion in a way that is visual and easy to understand, people will be moved to action to prepare their families and communities,” said Tim Manning, FEMA’s deputy administrator of protec- tion and national preparedness. • FEMA launches visualization tool for disaster data BY AMANDA ZIADEH In Seal Beach, Calif., the Marine Safety Depart- ment’s new $1,400 drone is working overtime protecting beachgoers this summer. According to Patch. com, the city’s drone was originally purchased to photograph the annual Junior Lifeguard Program, but when video showed 10 to 12 great white sharks close to shore, lifeguards realized the drone’s potential. Previously, lifeguards confirmed shark warnings by jet skiing to the reported location, which took enough time for the sharks to move on. With the drone, lifeguards can spot sharks from 100 feet up and zoom down for a closer look. Additionally, the drone images allow lifeguards to assess the size of the sharks; the beach closes only when large or aggressive sharks are sighted. In addition to shark spotting, life- guards say they can see the shape and length of riptides, which are also hard to see from land. • Shark-spotting drone patrols California beach BY SUSAN MILLER 0715gcn_006-010.indd 7 7/1/15 1:06 PM