Snapshot: S&T-funded Innovation Enables Emergency Managers to Excel During 2018 Hurricane Season


  • newswise-fullscreen Snapshot: S&T-funded Innovation Enables Emergency Managers to Excel During 2018 Hurricane Season

    Screenshot of the HURREVAC application during Hurricane Florence.

  • newswise-fullscreen Snapshot: S&T-funded Innovation Enables Emergency Managers to Excel During 2018 Hurricane Season

    Screenshot of the HURREVAC application during Hurricane Michael.

Newswise — Following a successful debut during the 2017 Hurricane Season, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Web-based Hurricane Evacuation (HURREVAC) system was used on a larger scale during the 2018 Hurricane Season, and is set to go fully operational for the 2019 hurricane season.

The Web-based HURREVAC platform integrates forecast and planning data to provide emergency managers with decision support tools for use in advance of and during tropical weather, explained S&T Program Manager Darren Wilson. Collaborating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the National Hurricane Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory (MIT-LL), and countless state and local emergency managers, DHS S&T worked to redesign the legacy HURREVAC system and add new capabilities implemented on an agile, open architecture platform with new innovative visualization tools, imbedded training and storm simulation resources, as well as the capability to be run on mobile devices. The result of this collaboration is the Web-based HURREVAC.

“Web-based HURREVAC provides a one-stop shop for all the best information that emergency managers need to make decisions to keep the public safe,” said Carla Quinn, National Hurricane Program Manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “The data comes from the National Hurricane Center, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, as well as some National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and US Geological Survey (USGS) sources. This data is important to emergency planners because they have a wide variety of threats associated with a hurricane, including storm surge, wind, inland flooding and other sea related threats that NOAA, USGS and other weather prediction centers can provide.”

At the start of the 2018 Hurricane Season, 5,184 emergency managers from 19 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico had already registered for an account to access the new Web-based HURREVAC. When Hurricane Florence formed in the Atlantic Ocean and was heading toward the US, there were over one thousand users using the system to collect information about the storm.

“Emergency managers from Florida to Maine utilized Web-based HURREVAC to analyze the potential impacts from Hurricane Florence related to storm surge, wind, and inland flooding. Of particular value was the system capability to visualize storm surge estimates out at the two to five day forecast limit,” Wilson explained.

“Being able to see all the layers at one time in Web-based HURREVAC means we don’t have to go to other websites to see the same information,” said Katie Webster, a meteorologist and natural hazards planner with North Carolina Emergency Management. “Now, we can see it all on one platform. It also allows us to take the web-based platform around the office to provide briefings for senior leadership or the Governor, and it’s all right there in one spot. We can show them all one graphic what it is that we’re talking about.”

Hurricane Michael led to similar usage, where more than 800 Web-based HURREVAC users tracked and collected information about the storm to increase situation awareness and maximize preparedness.

DHS S&T continues to enhance the capabilities of the system with new functionality and innovative features, and in 2019 has already transitioned a new open-source evacuation transportation modeling capability. This new capability included upgrades to the nationwide road network (from 2009 to 2019) and U.S. Census data calculations from (2000 to 2010). Both upgrades dramatically improve the efficiency and accuracy of roadway networks and population estimates in emergency management transportation analyses. This new capability is being used over the next six months to create updated evacuation clearance times in support of Hurricane Evacuation Studies for Alabama, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas, and Virginia, explained Wilson.

In addition to providing early access to emergency managers in support of the 2018 hurricane season, DHS S&T and its development partner MIT-LL received the 2018 R&D 100 Award for Web-based HURREVAC in November. The R&D 100 Award is given to a select group of the top 100 innovative technologies for 2018 by R&D Magazine. A panel of distinguished judges rank hundreds of applicants each year, and choose the leading products, technologies and services they believe will make a difference for their industry or field.

Wilson expects the Web-based HURREVAC system will fully replace the legacy system and be operationally implemented as the nation’s new hurricane evacuation planning and decision support system in advance of the 2019 Hurricane Season. Request system access at: https://hvx-registration.hurrevac.com/?go=account:registercontact

For more information contact first.responder@dhs.gov.

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