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Fire, flood or freak storm: Esri’s Disaster Response Program is there

Over the past few years, natural disasters and severe weather events have increased in frequency and severity across Canada.  This month marks the anniversary of the Fort McMurray wildfires. On May 3, 2016, the fire swept through the community, forcing the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta's history.

Fast forward a year later, I sat and watched the news from Montréal as they declared a state of emergency over flooding, while Atlantic Canada and Ontario prepared for similar flooding impact after massive rain.  Then British Columbia got hit!  What’s next?

Disasters happen.  We can’t control when they happen, but it’s a good thing we have our emergency management organizations to mitigate their impact; prepare through planning, training and exercises; manage the response when the ‘stuff hits the fan’; and lead in recovery efforts to get us back to (the new) normal.  For these organizations, knowing what’s needed and how to find it can be the key factor that saves lives, resources and critical infrastructure.

Using geographic information systems (GIS) is now considered best practice in all phases of emergency management.  Our emergency management solutions can help you with all phases of emergency management—from developing mitigation plans to managing limited resources in the midst of chaos and prioritizing recovery efforts once the dust settles. 

Does every organization have a complete GIS-based enterprise solution?  No.  And even those best prepared can still be surprised.  So, when disaster strikes, Esri’s Disaster Response Program (DRP) is ready to support organizations—around the clock, 24/7—through software, imagery, data, project services and technical support to assist with emergency operations.

Whether faced with severe weather, wildfires, flooding, earthquakes, hurricanes or humanitarian crises, Esri has proven first-line experience in quickly providing information to help organizations assess and properly address emergency situations.  Esri has supported dozens of significant disaster response operations worldwide, including those for Typhoon Haiyan (2013), Nepal earthquake (2015), and the Fort McMurray Fires of 2016.

This Public Information Map, jointly developed by Esri and Esri Canada, was used to help the public understand not only where the Fort McMurray wildfire was burning, but also how it may impact human life.

How It Works

To receive assistance, your agency or organization needs to fill out a request form on the DRP website.

"We’re on call 24/7/365 to monitor, review and process requests to support emergencies or events anywhere in the world," said Brenda Martinez, public safety sector marketing specialist at Esri. "After we receive the request, it is reviewed to determine the specific need and then sent to the appropriate Esri staff members or departments for immediate processing."

The DRP website contains resources such as public information maps, examples of disaster response and recovery methodology, web map templates, how-to guides, live-feed data, social media feeds, case studies and videos.

Review the information available, and keep the link handy. Hopefully, you will never need it.

About the Author

David Hamilton is the Public Safety Industry Manager for Esri Canada. His efforts are focused on advising customers how to use GIS technology to improve all areas of public safety, specifically (NG)9-1-1, law enforcement, fire services, emergency medical services, emergency management, and search and rescue. Prior to joining Esri Canada in 2010, David managed the GIS for E-Comm 9-1-1 in Vancouver, and worked for the RCMP at the Integrated Security Unit for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games where he managed their Common Operating Picture. Being active has been a major part of David’s personal life; soccer, track & field, skiing, cycling, hiking and now kayaking are all among his favourite activities.

Profile Photo of David Hamilton