A New Way to Look at Disaster

Now, not only emergency responders but also the general public can get an idea of where disaster declarations have occurred across the United States. A new data visualization tool at launched by FEMA on June 11 is part of the agency’s education mandate for end users. “We have a wealth of data that can be of great use to the public,” said FEMA’s Deputy Administrator of Protection and National Preparedness Tim Manning in a release. “By providing this information in a way that is visual and easy to understand, people will be moved to action to prepare their families and communities.”

The tool, which can be found at fema.gov/data-visualization, allows users to access FEMA data on the history of disaster declarations by hazard type or year and the financial support provided to states, tribes and territories, and access public datasets for further research and analysis. Visual representations of federal grant data as it relates to fire, preparedness, mitigation, individual assistance and public assistance are also available.

Through the tool, users can explore disasters that have happened locally. It gives them ways to prepare for future disasters through community preparedness planning, individual preparedness actions, or a local Citizen Corps program.

According to an interview in Government Technology magazine with Rafael Lemaitre, director of public affairs for FEMA, the tool took a year to build. "I think one of the most striking things of this tool is you’ll be hard pressed to find any county in the United States that has not been hit by some natural or man-made disaster,” Lemaitre told Government Technology.

The new tool comes on the heels of the upgrade to FEMA’s weather app in mid-May, which allowed users sign up for weather watches and alerts for up to five cities to access storm data and survival tips, according to another article from Government Technology.