Satellite and Aerial Remote Sensing in Support of Disaster Response Operations Conducted by the Texas Division of Emergency Management

Monday, 15 December 2014
Gordon L Wells, Byron D Tapley, Srinivas V Bettadpur, Teresa Howard, Brent Porter, Solar Smith, Larry Teng and Craig Tapley, University of Texas at Austin, Center for Space Research, Austin, TX, United States
The effective use of remote sensing products as guidance to emergency managers and first responders during field operations requires close coordination and communication with state-level decision makers, incident commanders and the leaders of individual strike teams. Information must be tailored to meet the needs of different emergency support functions and must contain current (ideally near real-time) data delivered in standard formats in time to influence decisions made under rapidly changing conditions. Since 2003, a representative of the University of Texas Center for Space Research (CSR) has served as a member of the Governor’s Emergency Management Council and has directed the flow of information from remote sensing observations and high performance computing modeling and simulations to the Texas Division of Emergency Management in the State Operations Center. The CSR team has supported response and recovery missions resulting from hurricanes, tornadoes, flash floods, wildfires, oil spills and other natural and man-made disasters in Texas and surrounding states. Through web mapping services, state emergency managers and field teams have received threat model forecasts, real-time vehicle tracking displays and imagery to support search-and-clear operations before hurricane landfall, search-and-rescue missions following floods, tactical wildfire suppression, pollution monitoring and hazardous materials detection. Data servers provide near real-time satellite imagery collected by CSR’s direct broadcast receiving system and post data products delivered during activations of the United Nations International Charter on Space and Major Disasters. In the aftermath of large-scale events, CSR is charged with tasking state aviation resources, including the Air National Guard and Texas Civil Air Patrol, to acquire geolocated aerial photography of the affected region for wide area damage assessment. A data archive for each disaster is available online for years following the event to assist forensic studies and local plans for recovery. The use of portable devices, including commodity smartphones and tablets, will soon permit even more responsive data delivery during future disasters through the expansion of wireless Public Safety Broadband (FirstNet) targeted to serve first responders.