Monday, June 9, 2014

The role good data played in the response to the 2013 June flood

Good decisions are based on good data. And during the 2013 June flood, much of the success of the emergency response can be attributed to the leaders and decision makers having good data to respond quickly and appropriately to the emergency.

But where did the good data come from during the emergency? Much of it was based on accurate mapping and geospatial data. The Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) and its’ members used a web based application called a Common Operating Picture (COP) to access over 200 layers of geographic information, both static and near-real time, from business units and partners across The City.

During the 2013 June flood, The City’s geospatial experts worked quietly and quickly behind the scenes to create accurate maps and analysis that provided CEMA with situational awareness to provide direction and leadership. Additionally, maps helped thousands of citizens evacuate their communities and arrive at emergency response centers, while other maps provided first responders a methodical means to secure communities.

The initial need was to create the community evacuation maps. They combined community data, with census data, property data and other information to estimate how many people would be evacuated from 28 areas of the city. This not only directed people out of dangerous areas, but allowed emergency planners to determine the number and location of emergency reception centers required and plan for the special needs of seniors, families and other groups.

For 21 consecutive days, the geospatial experts worked around the clock to create evacuation, road closure, emergency response centre, waste and recycling, and re-entry maps for citizens and the front line responders.

“It was an evolving situation where the criteria for creating maps and analyzing geographic data were constantly changing”, said one of the Geospatial Fusion Specialists, with The City’s Infrastructure & Information Services. “It was the most stressful situation I have ever been involved in, and yet, it was the greatest learning scenario too”.

Emergency management technology and The City’s Common Operating Picture (COP) play a critical role on emergency planning and response. The COP tool pulls information from The City’s 911 and 311 systems, and integrates that information with live weather, traffic and social media feeds, along with static data, including critical infrastructure, subdivision and utility networks. It allows the coordination between many operational groups. It is one of the many tools The City uses for small and large scale situations and events.

Visit for more information on Geospatial Emergency Management.

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