StormCenter Partners with NASA to Develop Important All-Hazards Technology

StormCenter Communications, Inc. is proud to have won a NASA Roses proposal that would significantly enhance the way emergency managers can share data and information. In an effort to improve the delivery of weather and emergency information, FEMA, the National Weather Service (NWS), and the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) have teamed up with StormCenter to extend the AWIPSII Visualization and Collaboration Capabilities for Enhanced Decision Making using NASA Data.

StormCenter and partners joined forces in the development of a geo-browser technology (EVCM) which visualizes the potential impact of all hazards and helps federal officials collaborate and communicate in real time. The result is an enhanced decision making process between FEMA, NOAA, DHS and other members of emergency management.

The collaborative technology was originally developed using an ESRI ArcGIS engine for the purpose of collaborating between TouchTables - a system originally utilized and enhanced with Nothrop Grumman for military tactical situational awareness and response. However, to accommodate the needs and requests from secure agencies such as FEMA and DHS, the development was expanded to a Google Earth platform and can now run on any desktop PC or handheld device. As development continues and more frequent extreme hazards dictate the need for a new paradigm of delivering powerful impact-based decision support services (IDSS) through a true common operating picture, regular testing, evaluation and data sharing takes place weekly between NWS Southern Region Headquarters (SRHQ), TDEM, FEMA Region VI and StormCenter. The weekly real-time collaboration calls, as well as additional collaborations that have occurred based on the need for situational awareness due to threatening and imminent hazards, serve to train our partners on EVCM and to collect input and developmental requests from users which then get fed into technical development. Conversely, NOAA, NASA and other satellite and 3rd-party data are displayed, animated, and evaluated for appearance, usability, size and accuracy.

In May of 2011 EVCM was used to collaborate on the Mississippi River flooding and the Morganza spillway release. USACE Inundation Depth Grid Model output was displayed in real time with other related data sets during a session between TDEM, NWS SRHQ, and FEMA Region VI. After the spillway was opened, Depth Grids were examined in EVCM and it was discovered from the data that 100% of the gates had been opened. This was critical decision-making information sharing between the agencies.

Also in 2011, EVCM collaboration between the partners using NASA's MODIS and Landsat data aided in the forecasting and situational awareness of Wildfires in Texas. The real-time sessions were useful for TDEM and NWS SRHQ in developing plans for sharing information with the public and damage assessment and planning. In the spring of 2012, collaborative sessions were used in overlaying data sets related to mesocyclone tracks, tornado reports and damage as post-storm case studies in the examination of hail core mapping, airport damage and neighborhood cleanup.

StormCenter continues to forge partnerships, technological development, and data set manipulation to best provide real-time collaboration, situational awareness and improved decision making for federal agencies and emergency managers.