Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2012 Vol. 59 No. 6

Texas Emergency Management Briefs, Tips and Links

Missed an issue of Texas Emergency Management Online? You’re in luck. You can view each past issue in the online archives. And, if you have a story idea, email it to TDEM.WEB@dps.texas.gov.

Officials with Texas Forest Service and The Texas A&M University System have unveiled new web applications that will help homeowners and communities determine wildfire risk — and take measures to mitigate potential hazards. Wildfires scorched almost 4 million acres across the state last year, destroying nearly 3,000 homes. Texas Forest Service officials say the new web applications will arm Texans with the tools they need to reduce threats from future blazes. Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal, or TxWRAP, allows users to identify wildfire threats for a particular area based on landscape characteristics, historical fire occurrence, weather conditions, terrain and potential fire behavior. It also routes users to resources that can help them implement wildfire prevention practices. Accessible at texaswildfirerisk.com, the applications are free to use. Professional users such as civic planners, wildland fire managers and elected officials can use TxWRAP to generate a report packaging all the wildfire risk data for their community. Such a tool can be useful in defining mitigation options, allocating resources and prioritizing programs that will better protect communities. Developed by Texas Forest Service GIS specialists, TxWRAP is the first web portal of its kind in the nation granting public access to risk assessment data that previously hasn’t been readily available, particularly in a user-friendly format. Texas Forest Service Director Tom Boggus called the website a “holistic approach to Texans helping Texans mitigate their wildfire risk.” Resources: Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal: texaswildfirerisk.com. Brief, instructional video: www.youtube.com/texasforestservice

More than 80 percent of wildfires in Texas now strike within two miles of suburban communities. What’s more, the desire to live closer to nature has driven many Texans out of major cities and into the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). View the FEMA Fact Sheet for answers to the most frequently asked questions about the WUI.

Following the state’s worst single year drought on record, many organizations have developed tools to measure water levels and consumption following concern about water shortages. Though many areas in Texas received unexpected yet welcome amounts of rainfall this spring, many areas in West Texas are still in severe drought stages.  Using data collected from the Texas Water Development Board's reservoir status tracker, the Texas Tribune built a tool that visualizes the current levels of the state's reservoirs. The map will be updated daily with fresh data. Each icon on the map represents an individual reservoir, color-coded based on how full it is currently. Hover over a marker to see the name of the reservoir, or click on the marker to see its total capacity and how much it currently holds.

The American Red Cross and Dell have launched a new Digital Operations Center, the first social media-based operation devoted to humanitarian relief. The Red Cross also announced a Digital Volunteer program to help respond to questions from and provide information to the public during disasters. Located in the Red Cross National Disaster Operations Center in Washington, D.C., the center will help expand the Red Cross’s ability to engage with the public during emergencies. A Red Cross survey revealed that the Internet now is the third most commonly used way for people to get emergency-related information; nearly a fourth of the general public and a third of the online population would use social media to let loved ones know they are safe. The survey found that people use social media during disasters to get updates, seek and give help, and connect with loved ones. View a timeline of technology and Disaster Relief

In conjunction with the Digital Operations Center, the Red Cross also announced the creation of a Digital Volunteer Program. Digital volunteers from across the country will be trained to respond online to questions from the public, distribute critical information and provide comfort and reassurance during emergencies. The digital volunteers will play a critical role in working to verify and curate an incredible volume of data during disasters, notifying Digital Operations Center staff of online trends and situational information that can inform disaster-response efforts Equally important, they will engage with people affected by disasters, providing them with critical safety information, resources and comforting messages. The Red Cross has been engaged in a multi-year effort to improve the use of social data in emergencies. After hosting an Emergency Social Data Summit in 2010, the Red Cross released a white paper that identified a number of necessary steps and stressed the importance of having a network of engaged volunteers to implement new monitoring and response methods.

Share |