FEMA Disaster-Prediction Software Expands

FEMA Disaster Prediction Software Expands

The Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to add over the next few years two new disaster-prediction components to its Hazards US (HAZUS) system -- currently the software of choice for predicting the economic impact of earthquakes. Those new components will improve users' ability to estimate losses from hurricanes, tornadoes and floods.

FEMA, along with the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), last week agreed to release a request for proposals for the first component, which will predict the impact of high-wind weather systems. "We identified more models that may serve as the basis for the development of the wind loss estimation model, and we determined how we are going to conduct the procurement process," said Phil Schneider, director of the multi-hazard loss estimation program at NIBS, a congressionally authorized nonprofit organization.

Currently, state and local governments use HAZUS to forecast the number of deaths and economic losses from earthquakes and use those predictions to plan relief efforts. By importing HAZUS' database -- which contains the sizes and types of buildings in an area, along with demographic information -- state and local governments can use their geographic information systems to estimate the number of deaths and economic losses from earthquakes.

HAZUS predicts how the ground will shake, the number of buildings damaged, the number of casualties, the amount of damage to transportation systems, disruption to the electrical and water utilities, the number of people displaced from their homes and the estimated cost of repairing projected damage and other effects.

The wind component, as well as one for floods, will be completed in three to four years and, together with the earthquake-prediction component, will provide more detail on natural disasters than FEMA's Consequence Assessment Tool System (CATS), which FEMA now uses to forecast losses from natural disasters. "States have many different hazards they are dealing with," said Dan O'Brien, the project manager for earthquakes in the New York State Emergency Management Office, which is responsible for coordinating with FEMA and local counties to deal with natural and technological hazards.

"The expansion of the program to the wind module will be of great significance to the state. Hurricanes are one of our greatest natural hazards," said O'Brien, whose office has been using HAZUS for a year and a half. "HAZUS is clearly an expansion in scope as well as a refinement in detail," added Joseph Minor, chairman of the FEMA/NIBS wind committee. "CATS was able to project certain things for certain hazards at a certain level of detail. HAZUS will extend the scope of that to a greater level of detail."

NIBS has a cooperative agreement with FEMA to produce the HAZUS earthquake, wind and flood models and has distributed the HAZUS earthquake modeling software to emergency management agencies in 50 states. NIBS' flood committee is looking into user requirements for the flood modeling software, which will forecast losses from floods. HAZUS will completely replace CATS for predicting losses from natural disasters in about three to four years -- the amount of time it will take to develop HAZUS' wind and flood components, Minor said.

Gil Jamieson, chief of risk assessment within FEMA's mitigation directorate, said CATS will still be applicable for certain disasters. "We're always going to use CATS for chemical [and] biological high-computing, end-modeling capabilities," Jamieson said. "If you're ever in a situation where you're talking about a toxic release or a chemical spill of one sort or another, you want the experts in one place running the model on their high-end computers and then passing along the results to state and local governments."

HAZUS also gives state and local governments equipped with desktop PCs the ability to make quicker decisions in the event of disasters. FEMA provides state and local governments with a compact disc so that officials can make up their own scenarios and input information relevant to their own communities as they plan for disasters. CATS, which was built on a Unix workstation and requires high-end computing capabilities, simply sent the forecast information to state and local governments.

Scott McAfee, a GIS analyst with the earthquake program at the Office of Emergency Services in the California governor's office, said HAZUS is easier to integrate with the state's GIS system, but one of the drawbacks is that results are produced at a slower pace. "If I were to run a scenario, it would take longer on a desktop, Intel-based system than it would on a high-end Unix [system]," McAfee said. He also said it could take "overnight or a day and a half" to get predictions for a complex geological area with many buildings, such as five counties in one metropolitan area.

But Kenneth Taylor, earthquake planner for the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management, warned against pushing HAZUS to do things it wasn't designed to do, such as model in real time. "HAZUS is a planning tool, not a response direction tool. You shouldn't make resource allocation decisions based on this tool," he said. However, he added, "It will be a great planning tool in terms of educating the public and elected officials on how to prepare, plan and mitigate for these conditions."

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.