Pettis County, Mo. — Several Missouri counties purchased a fleet of Juniper Systems Mesa Rugged Notepads with a grant meant to aid with disaster management. The counties—collectively comprising the Pioneer Trails Regional Planning Commission (RPC)—intend to use the Mesa in a wide variety of ways to assist with emergency preparedness and disaster management.  

Referred to as the Homeland Security Grant, this funding is available on an annual basis through Missouri’s Department of Public Safety. The grant aims to help Missouri counties better prepare for emergencies and disasters, with the large number of tornados, ice storms and floods that sweep across the state. Information about this grant can be found here.

In selecting a grant application for submission, county officials first conducted a Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment to identify important needs of the counties in case of emergency. This involves presenting three different emergency scenarios, (a tornado, an ice storm and a train derailment with hazardous material) determining a course of action and identifying what resources/equipment the counties are lacking. From this, the Pioneer Trails RPC identified rugged handheld computers as critical equipment need.

Members of the Pioneer Trails RPC first saw the Mesa at work in the aftermath of the 2011 tornado in Joplin, Mo. Esri GIS experts came to assist with disaster management, bringing with them several Mesas to collect the data they needed. After trying out the Mesa at Joplin, James Theisen, director of technologies for Pettis County, said, “It showed not only the capabilities of the Mesa, but also the fact that at the end of the day, it could do the job. It was evident very quickly that it was a powerful tool.”

The Mesas purchased with the Homeland Security Grant will be used in a number of ways. One major use will be for mapping and collecting data on assets and infrastructure, using Esri’s ArcPad and ArcGIS Mobile software. Information about gas shutoffs, fire hydrants, water lines and other important assets will be essential in case of an incident, as well as in disaster planning exercises. In times of disaster, the Mesas will be used for damage assessment to request FEMA relief funds. They will also be used by the highway department, the assessor’s office and other departments, and schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other centers.