Derecho storms raise important questions about emergency preparedness and response

The Fourth of July is usually a fun holiday for Americans as they get together with their friends, family and loved ones for cookouts, fireworks and summer frivolity.

Unfortunately for many residents of the Washington, D.C. metro area, this year’s Independence Day was almost as disastrous as the one portrayed in that famous Will Smith movie. That’s because the weekend before the Fourth, a derecho storm rolled through the region, bringing with it violent winds and rains.

Although the storm only lasted a few minutes, its impact was felt for a week or more by many residents. That’s because the winds and heavy rains toppled branches, felled power lines and lead to massive blackouts across the region. Some local area residents were forced to ride out the subsequent heat wave that followed the storm without power and a way to cool off in temperatures that topped 100 degrees.

Although the storm is passed, power is restored and downed branches are cleared from roads, the storm has raised questions about preparedness and response. Specifically, how can the government better prepare to respond to events such as the derecho storm or hurricanes?

The answer is location intelligence and geocoding technologies that utilize existing government data to better prepare for and respond to natural disasters and other events.

In a previous post, we discussed how location intelligence solutions could be used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in floods and hurricanes to help with effectively and efficiently deploying resources. These same solutions could be used in situations like the one in the D.C. area following the derecho storm.

Using location intelligence solutions, local and federal government agencies could identify the neighborhoods that are most likely to lose power following storms. They could also identify which streets are lined with trees or frequently experience closures from downed limbs.

When a storm comes, the government could be ready with generators for providing power to necessary infrastructure and road crews to clear debris. If these storms roll through in July and in the middle of intolerable heat waves, the government can also identify which neighborhoods would be most impacted and work to have cooling stations deployed and ready to cool down those most at risk, such as the elderly or infirmed.

Identifying roads that suffer from closures due to downed limbs and flooding can have another important impact as well. First responders, emergency personnel and evacuation routes can be greatly hindered by downed trees and flooded roads. By identifying these roads and working to create alternative routes for evacuees, first responders and emergency vehicles, the government can ensure that help arrives quickly and people get away from disaster in a timely fashion.

Finally, location intelligence and geocoding solutions can be key for communication prior to, and after, disaster striking. Utilizing the information they receive from location intelligence solutions about the neighborhoods most likely to be negatively impacted by a storm or other disaster, the government can reach out to families via reverse 911 systems and provide early warnings or other valuable information.

Following storms, location intelligence solutions can enable government entities to project reports of power outages and other incidents from residents on a map. This map can then be used to help the government identify the areas most in need of immediate assistance.

By embracing location intelligence solutions, government agencies can better plan, prepare and respond to the natural disasters and other incidents that disrupt the lives of citizens. By looking at the data already available to the government on maps and identifying the neighborhoods most likely to be hardest hit, the government can expedite response operations, better position resources and otherwise minimize the impact disasters have on citizens.

Original post: Derecho storms raise important questions about emergency preparedness and response

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