Upcoming Blog Series: Risk Management and the Disaster Communications Challenge


I’m currently working on a multi-post series looking at various parts of risk management and disaster communications.  I’ve been giving these ideas much thought over the past several years, but with the events of the last few weeks, it’s time to share my thoughts on a wide range of challenges that we face with risk management and disaster communications.  I’d encourage you to look through previous blog posts here, and keep an eye out for the posts.  You can also follow me on twitter (@emgis) for more information when the posts become available.

Thanks for following and I hope to that this effort will aid in the ongoing discussion after these recent events, bringing some key topics to the table that need to be addressed.

Regards – Brian

Tornado Devastates Moore Oklahoma – Preliminary Path Map (Unofficial)


I’m going to keep this short because everyone else is already covering this, but I needed to pass this on.  As you already know, a violent tornado tracked through Moore, OK earlier this afternoon (May 20, 2013).  When things calm down more, I’ll try to write up more on this event later, but the map below was created based on the radar data from the FAA TDWR radar site in Oklahoma City (TOKC).

The map has interactive bookmarks for some of the facilities impacted that being broadcast over the media (schools and other large facilities).

PRELIMINARY Map of the Tornado Path for the 5/20/2013 Moore, Oklahoma
Based off of FAA TDWR Radar Scans of the Tornado from TOKC
(This is not an official product)

For more current information, please follow local media outlets and state and local officials.

Deadly Tornadoes Cut Through Central Oklahoma (Edmond, Carney, Norman, Bethel Acres, Shawnee)


Earlier this evening, several supercells erupted in Central Oklahoma, producing several strong to violent tornadoes.  These tornadoes impacted communities such as Edmond, Carney, Norman, Bethel Acres and Shawnee.  Much of the attention now including prayers have been focused on those impacted in a mobile home park directly in the path of the tornado where at least one fatality has occurred.

The following link goes to an interactive map showing the approximate paths of the three most significant tornadoes that impacted Central Oklahoma.  The map has a bookmark feature where you can view the Edmond, Carney and Norman to Shawnee tornadoes.  Similar tornado path maps have been very helpful and highly accurate for other significant tornadoes events over the past several years.

Click on the graphic to launch an interactive map.

Click on the graphic to launch an interactive map. The map contains bookmarks for the 3 tornadoes as well as an address lookup feature.

This information is unofficial information, but is based upon NWS Radar scans and uses the National Climate Data Center Weather/Climate Toolkit (NCDC WCT) and ESRI’s ArcGIS Online.  For official storm survey results, please follow the National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma (@NWSNorman).  In the coming days, the National Weather Service will be performing storm damage surveys.  When more information is made available, I’ll be linking to those products.

Thank you for your support of DisasterMapping


As we approach 35000 visits to this blog and the single largest traffic day in the past two years with 1200+ unique visitors, I wanted to share some thoughts about the direction of the site. 

Originally when I started blogging , I was interested in looking at the application of geographic information systems and mapping to the disaster response and emergency management context.  Over time, I’ve learned a few key lessons about disaster communication that will guide where we go from here. Nature abhors a vacuum and good old fashioned journalism combined with critical thinking provides an opportunity to answer the questions that so many people are asking.

On peak days, most of the volume is driven to this site not by Twitter or Facebook but by everyday web searches like Google, Yahoo & Bing.  People are looking for answers to the events theyve seen unfold in the world around them.

Likewise when media (mainstream media or social media) or officials exaggerate or provide erroneous information people notice.  A great example of this is a tweet I just saw from Jason Prentice: “‘So, NBC Nightly News leads with Texas tornadoes “Out of Nowhere” while @CBSNews has accurate stat on 26 minute lead time. Who wins?’”

In the world disaster response people have long memories – people remember when you mess up. People remember when you didn’t do your homework.  People search out more trustworthy sources when you’ve you proven to be untrustworthy in the past.  And finally, when you can’t give people the answers they’re looking for they will go search for other sources even if that doesn’t paint a complete picture.

That brings me back to the purpose of the site. I share thoughts and ideas in order to stimulate discussion.  If that process helps people to engage with the world around them and help people to ask questions that help solve disaster management challenges then I’ve done my job to contribute to the dialogue.

Did you find an article interesting?  If so, I encourage you to share with people around you. Start talking about the ideas and thoughts – ask questions, because it is through that process that we will find the answers to many of our disaster management challenges.

With that said, I want to thank you again for your support and for taking time to read the articles on this site.

NWSWarnings

Central Plains Blizzard: Snow Amounts Likely to Take Many By Surprise


A Blizzard Warning and Winter Storm Warning has been issued parts of the Southern and Central Plains, the second such blizzard in a week for some residents.  However a concept in disaster preparedness can be readily displayed with the forecast for this event.  Currently, the National Weather Service is forecasting a foot as the upper limit to the snowfall values in Kansas and 15″ as the upper limit to snowfall values in extreme Northeastern part of the Texas Panhandle.  But the highest snowfall totals for this storm could be much much higher….

Recently, the NOAA Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC) began issuing probabilistic snowfall graphics (shown below) that show snowfall forecasts where snowfall values are exceeded 90%, 75%, 50%, 25% and 10% of the time.

prb_48hsnow_50prcntil_2013022412f048_sm

HPC 50th Percentile Snow Forecast
(Click for larger image)

prb_48hsnow_90prcntil_2013022412f048_sm

HPC 90th Percentile Snow Forecast
(Click for larger image)

Essentially a 50th percentile snow forecast is the forecast that 50% of the time the amounts will be higher and 50% of the time, the amounts will be lower.  For planning purposes, this is the likely amount forecasted if you’re going to play the middle of the road.

However the 90th percentile forecast is quite different.  It shows the amounts that will be exceeded only 10% of the time.  While many people want to forecast snow amounts accurately, the 10% probability event is a great resource to “Plan for the worst” and the 50% probability event is “hoping for the best”.

The wild card in events like this is thunder snow. Essentially, areas where thunder snow occurs can receive locally higher snowfall amounts. The snow probabilities point to this potentiality, although the bands of intense snowfall will not cover the entire area. Depending on where the most intense bands set up, it will dramatically impact the amounts of snow received in those areas. This again points to the importance of the 10% exceedance threshold. Most people will receive snow amounts closer to the 50th percentile amount, but there will be pockets where people receive substantially higher amounts.

Snow_BlizzardKansas_Feb24

Comparison between NWS forecast (left) and HPC 90th percentile / 10% exceedance forecast (right) Current as of 0800CT on 2/24/2013

You may be saying right now, “that’s great but I hate math and hate probabilities”.  Communicating potential risk, especially in low probability, high impact events is critical for anticipating the worst and taking protective action while hoping for the best.  If there was a 10% chance of an intruder in your house, going after you and your family, would you take protective action?  If there was a 1 in 10 chance that you could lose your job, would you start developing a backup plan?

We’ll see how this specific event unfolds, but the current forecast (left in map above) isn’t even at the levels depicted in the 50th percentile event (likely underestimating snow  amounts).  Between that and the incredible disparity between the forecast and 10% potential snowfall amounts, this is a classic example where people can and likely will be caught surprised by the event.

Award for advertiser thinking on their feet

Power Outage Blacks Out Super Bowl Advertising??? Think again. “Not a Problem…”


Along with millions of others, you probably saw the power outage in the Super Bowl. During the stoppage in play, CBS did not air additional advertised commercials, but that didn’t stop advertisers from quick thinking / responding on their toes. The outage occurred at about 7:37 local time, and within 11 minutes @oreo posted one of the first major advertising tweets of the outage.  When all was said and done, more than 14,000 retweets had occurred and 4500+ people saved the tweet in their favorites.  The ad was simple and to the point, and connected with so many who were “left in the dark”.

Just take a look and decide for yourself – How effective is this $0.00 ad compared to the nearly $4 million for a 30 second broadcast advertisement in this year’s Big Game?

Award for advertiser thinking on their feet

32 Maps that Explain the World


GREAT post from Business Insider.  For those of you who love maps, current events, politics, social media, pretty much any hot topic, you’ll find at least one of these 32 maps hitting on key point of interest.  Definitely worth your time to look through and see the visual representations of the world around us!

32 Maps that Explain the Entire World

Maps That Explain The World – Business Insider.

GoogleFluTrends_RecordYear

Is the worst flu season in the past several years? Google says it is and here are the maps to prove it.


Graph of Google Flu Trends for the United States - As of 1/10/2013

Graph of Google Flu Trends 2012-2013 Flu Season in the United States – As of 1/10/2013

Over the past several days, there have been an increasing number of stories about this year’s flu season (2012-2013 flu season) being one of the worst in several years (Huffington Post, Boston Herald, NY Post).  There are even stories of schools closing down for a day because of high absenteeism because of illness (Oklahoma, Minnesota)  Starting in 2003, Google began tracking search terms because there was a correlation between words people were searching for and the intensity of the flu season.  As a result, the site http://www.google.org/flutrends/ was created.  One of the best items with this site though is that Google allows users to download data (CSV) for analysis.  As a result, the following maps were created to depict the strength of this year’s flu season in comparison to previous years.  As you can see, the 2003-2004 (H3N2) season and the 2009-2010 (H1N1) season are the worst seasons according to Google flu trends data since 2003 when the information was first tracked.

Additionally, the Google flu trends data is tracked and updated daily, while the data from state health organizations and the CDC is usually 1-2 weeks behind the actual occurrences.  This is for a number of reasons (onset of symptoms vs seeking treatment, delay in reporting, etc), but the Google trends charts are very similar to the charts disseminated by the CDC.  With this in mind, expect a surge in stories from states and localities beginning to implement health emergency plans for extremely high levels of flu activity.

Map Google Flu Trends Data - Showing Worst Season Since 2003-2004

(Above) Map Google Flu Trends Data – Showing Worst Season Since 2003-2004

GoogleFluTrends_PercentOfRecordYear

(Above) Current (As of 1/10/13) Google Flu Trends Values Relative to Previous Record (2003-2013)

UPDATE: North Korea Launches Missile 12/12/12


Differences between Euclidean and Geodesic Buffers from ESRI 10.1 Help

UPDATE: 12/12/12 Korean Time (934pm EST on 12/11) – According to the Associated Press, North Korea has test fired its long range missile.  More information will be coming out as nations in the region and around the world analyze the launch and respond through official channels.  At this time though, preliminary information shows that the missile was launched towards the south and passed over or near Okinawa early Wednesday morning local time.

Additionally, in following up from the original post, Darren Wiens has assembled several posts depicting maps for the 10,000km geodesic buffer.  GREAT work in applying the original post topic to create relevant related content.

Please check out his content as well, as it’s a great way to tie together the concepts discussed in this post and related articles.

Continue reading

Using Digital Maps to Study Digital Preparedness and History – WNYC


New Tech City: Using Digital Maps To Study Disaster Preparedness and History – WNYC.

Genius!!  Pure genius!  This is a major challenge with disaster preparedness today, and learning lessons from history and previous disasters are essential to minimizing impacts from future disasters.  Case and point NYC… With Hurricane Sandy, the storm surge was referenced as being a record surge.. even higher than the hurricane that occurred in 1821.  This still begs the question – “what if the hurricane of 1821 happened again today… what would the impact be?”  Additionally, as stated in http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/1821-hurricane-struck-new-york-at-low-tide/, the 1821 storm actually struck at LOW tide.. meaning the Category 3 storm then could have produced a tide level even higher than Sandy had it struck 12 hours earlier or later.  Again.. this means for preparedness… “THIS COULD HAPPEN…”   Again, great advances in technology, now we just have to put it together to answer the core questions… what if it happened again today, and how could we be more prepared…