Technology for Community Resiliency

By Paul Lemieux

This week I was honored to participate in the White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Demo Day. From finding an open gas station to finding a safe place to sleep at night following a disaster or finding a vehicle you can rent by the hour, participants shared a variety of amazing technology applications to help make communities more resilient in the aftermath of disaster.

Me giving a presentation on I-WASTE at the White House's Old Executive Office Building.

Paul giving a presentation on I-WASTE at the White House’s Old Executive Office Building.

While there were some great private sector tools from big innovators like Airbnb, Google, Microsoft, SeeClickFix, and TaskRabbit there were just as many amazing tools from government innovators, too.

An example of some of the government tools highlighted during the demo:

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) announced GeoQ, a tool that crowdsources geo-tagged photos of disaster-affected areas to assess damage over large regions. Developed in coordination with NGA, the Presidential Innovation Fellow Program, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and other disaster analysts, GeoQ improves the speed and quality of disaster-related data coordination by using a data crowd-sharing framework. Programmers can use the existing services and add features to customize the GeoQ code for their own community.

The U.S. Geological Service (USGS) highlighted ShakeMap and other post-earthquake information tools that offer rapid situational awareness for disaster response and recovery. Using data from seismic monitoring systems maintained by USGS and its state and university partners, ShakeMap provides a rapid graphical estimate of ground shaking in an affected region on the web within minutes of an event. The maps and underlying data, which can be downloaded in numerous formats for use in GIS and other applications, are also the basis for ShakeCast—which enables emergency managers at a growing number of companies, response organizations, and local governments to automatically receive USGS shaking data and generate their own customized impact alerts for their facilities.

And I showcased EPA’s I-WASTE, a flexible, web-based, planning and decision-making tool to address disaster waste management issues. I-WASTE offers emergency responders, industry representatives, and responsible officials reliable information on waste characterization, treatment, and disposal options, as well as guidance on how to incorporate waste management into planning and response for natural disasters, terrorist attacks and animal disease outbreaks.

It is clear that there are a number of public and private organizations working together with individuals and communities around the country to ensure that together we are prepared and ready to respond to the next disaster we might face.

Watch a video of how I-WASTE can help your community, embedded below, or go to http://www.epa.gov/sciencematters/homeland/clean-up.htm

Paul Lemieux, Ph.D. works on issues related to clean up after chemical/biological/radiological attacks and foreign animal disease outbreaks. Paul has also been working to develop computer-based decision support tools to aid decision makers in responding to wide-area contamination incidents. He is the Associate Division Director of the Decontamination and Consequence Management Division of U.S. EPA’s National Homeland Security Research Center.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Around the Water Cooler: Cleaning Up After Extreme Events

By Lahne Mattas-Curry

Weeks after Hurricane Sandy hammered the East Coast, many communities, especially in New York and New Jersey, were still trying to get back to normal life. Floodwaters rushed into houses, especially those in low-lying areas, taking with it memories while adding a toxic mess to many people’s possessions.

Extreme weather events, including hurricanes like Sandy and wildfires like those that have ravaged the west the last few summers, bring risk of contamination. Sediment, sewer waters, industrial chemicals and other materials in our water and air are just a few of the problems that can occur from extreme weather events and other disasters.

But cleanup after these events can be done in a way that will lessen the risks associated with handling hazardous materials. EPA researchers have developed a web based tool called I-Waste, specifically to assist with clean-up from man-made or natural disasters. Originally developed to support clean-up activities after an anthrax contamination, I-Waste is a flexible, web-based platform that provides real-time waste management options available to local officials and emergency responders when and where they need it.

The system can provide real-time critical information, such as the types and volumes of potential contaminants, and the location and contact information for disposal and treatment facilities in the area. I-Waste also provides health and safety information to ensure public and worker safety during the removal, transport, treatment and disposal of contaminated waste and debris.

About the Author: Lahne Mattas-Curry works with EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources and Homeland Security Research teams and is a frequent “Around the Water Cooler” contributor.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.