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URISA GISCorps Makes Immediate Impact Following Hurricane Katrina

September 7, 2005
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The GISCorps Committee identified 20 individuals with the right qualifications who are now volunteering their time and expertise at the Emergency Operations Center in Jackson, Mississippi.

Less than one week ago, URISA's GISCorps began the process of recruiting and identifying volunteers to head to the region affected by Hurricane Katrina. The ideal volunteer would have "enough GIS experience to work effectively in an emergency situation; have expertise in map production, performing analysis, data management, etc.; and have expertise in disaster management and working with GPS equipment".

The call for volunteers went out and more than 500 people responded! The GISCorps Committee worked tirelessly to identify 20 individuals with the right qualifications who are now volunteering their time and expertise at the Emergency Operations Center in Jackson, Mississippi.

The volunteers come from Ohio, Missouri, Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, California, New York, Texas, Arkansas, and Colorado and have an average work experience of 8 years. They have had an immediate impact on the situation.

Working with local universities, the team has been involved in the following (through September 4, 2005):

1. Search and Rescue. We translated more than 100 addresses/locations into GPS coordinates for the US Coast Guard rescue helicopter evacuation missions. Many of these location to GPS translations could only be done fast enough using GIS - (sometimes the calls come in as "I'm trapped at the water treatment plant in _____" or "I'm about 1 mile north of _____ and I can see a church steeple").

2. Developed the missing persons website report and database (http://www.gistools.org/mema.html) to assist with the taking of missing persons reports (8,000 and climbing rapidly). These reports spit out a geocodable table that is letting us build a missing persons feature class. This feature is the "Last known location" layer helping to map and direct emergency response.

3. We built the initial indexed search maps for the initial responders and strike teams - printed nearly 200 maps in under 10 hours. We are now finishing a revised and expanded search map set that covers eight county areas and will be used for house-to-house.

4. We ran the initial HAZUS model that provided what's turned out to be an unfortunately accurate prediction of what has happened. This helped operational managers pre-position response assets out of harm's immediate way and still within range to help.

5. We have printed more than 5,000 linear feet of maps off of two plotters. Mapping support services include the location of critical infrastructure such as water well heads, water treatment plants etc... that cannot be easily located due to the amount of debris.

6. Generated the briefing maps being seen by everyone from the individual responder through the President and showing things such as power outages, location of trees road closures, etc...

GISCorps continues to accept volunteer applications in preparation for the next request for assistance from the affected region. Visit the websites below for more information.

Source: URISA, Sept. 6, 2005

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