Science journalism: an introduction

On June 7, 2016, at 8:03 a.m., a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, centered 70 miles off the Oregon coast, violently shook the Pacific Northwest from Northern California to lớn southern Canada for about five minutes. Because the earthquake’s epicenter occurred deep in the crustal plates beneath the Pacific Ocean, tsunami waves as high as 40 feet formed và struông xã the coast about đôi mươi minutes after the initial earthquake jolt. The other side of this wall of water surged west, taking 10 hours to reach the Japanese coast 5,000 miles away.

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The status of emergency facilities and school status and the most current damage estimates were communicated via an Operations Dashboard.

Fortunately, this is not the description of an actual disaster but the scenario for an emergency response exercise called Cascadia Rising. It was organized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to lớn kiểm tra the readiness of emergency responders in the Pacific Northwest region for a major earthquake similar in kích cỡ to the one that struông xã nhật bản in 2011. The multiagency exercise was staged June 7–10, năm 2016, và included more than 165 organizations in Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, & Canada.

The City of Salem, Oregon, which participated in the exercise, activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) và mobilized its EOC GIS team. It used ArcGIS as a geocommunication platkhung for collaboration, resource allocation, và damage assessment.

“The exercise was about simulating the first week after a catastrophic 9.0+ earthquake & resulting tsunamày striking the area,” said Susan Blohm, GIS manager for the City of Salem, Oregon. “It was a multistate sự kiện that required the activation of EOCs throughout the Pacific Northwest region.”

Overdue for a Major Event

The Cascadia subduction fault zone stretches approximately 800 miles along the western coast of North America from Cape Mendocino in northern California khổng lồ Vancouver Isl& in British Columbia, Canada. The offshore Juan de Fuca plate is being shoved under the North American plate. The subduction zone is named for the Cascade Mountain range, which includes active sầu volcanos. It is part of the Pacific Ocean’s Ring of Fire, where the majority of the world’s largest earthquakes occur.

Chris Goldfinger, a professor at Oregon State University (OSU) và an expert on subduction zone earthquakes, indicates that the last major earthquake occurred on the Cascadia subduction zone on January 26, 1700. An extensive study authored by Goldfinger và other OSU researchers concluded that there is a 40 percent chance of a major earthquake occurring in the southern margin of the Cascadia fault zone during the next 50 years that will be similar in intensity to lớn the 2011 Japanese sự kiện. The retìm kiếm also indicates that earthquakes in this region occur every 240 years on average, making the next one already about 75 years overdue.


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SAFE Portal's Gallery keeps a running total on estimated damages.

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Testing Real-Time Collaboration

“All of us in this region that are involved in emergency operations are well aware of the potential devastation from a 9.0 earthquake và the fact that it could strike at any time,” said Blohm. “Our fundamental goal for the exercise was khổng lồ participate in a meaningful, collaborative sầu way. We accomplished this by creating the Situational Awareness Framework for Events Portal, successfully implementing Portal for ArcGIS with 100 temporary ArcGIS Online user licenses that we distributed throughout our local area.”

“Because of the low learning curve sầu of ArcGIS Online, training wasn’t necessary, và we were very satisfied with the results,” said Blohm. “We were able khổng lồ quickly st& up a working prototype of an expanded local emergency services network for data management, visualization, và resource sharing. In addition, we supported the overarching objectives for the exercise established by the Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM) that included operational communications, public health & medical services, mass care services, situational assessment, critical transportation, và operational coordination.”

According to Dan Brown, the city’s GIS technical lead, SAFE Portal was not only the technology platkhung but also the geocommunication platkhung for collaborating in real time. “I am looking forward khổng lồ using SAFE Portal to further strengthen our city, county, transit, schools, health, và business community lớn use the power of Web GIS & to lớn go beyond the limited use of paper maps.”

Salem allocated its ArcGIS Online licenses lớn facilities in the city as well as cities within Marion County where it is located. This distribution of software licenses khổng lồ other jurisdictions—the Red Cross, Citizen Emergency Response Teams (CERT), the local hospital, and others—allowed those organizations to interactively giới thiệu information directly related khổng lồ Oregon OEM’s objectives with the Salem EOC in real time.

Emergency 911 calls, as well as other critical resource requests, were reviewed khổng lồ determine the appropriate response based on needs, resources, và locations. In addition, they could chia sẻ and exchange resources with one another. The locations of all mass evacuation & response shelters, such as hospitals, were available through the portal. Field teams recorded damage assessments with Collector for ArcGIS and attached related photos to lớn their reports. Transportation networks were assessed & GIS used to identify alternative sầu routes for transporting critical goods & providing services to lớn the most vulnerable populations.

By coordinating operations through Portal for ArcGIS, information was shared in real time between participants, local EOCs, the state, & federal organizations such as FEMA.


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SAFE Portal consumed live sầu data feeds, such as this data on weather conditions, to enable better informed-decision making.

“We developed an effective sầu application for damage assessment for the exercise,” said Blohm. Each damaged property’s value was obtained from the county assessor’s records. Teams in the field estimated the percentage of a property that sustained damage. This percentage was applied khổng lồ the assessed value to lớn estimate the cost of damages. For example, the loss for a house valued at $300,00 that was 50 percent damaged was estimated lớn be $150,000.

“We kept a running total of property damage displayed on the EOC dashboard so that it could be readily reported lớn FEMA, because when you reach a certain financial threshold, you can request federal emergency disaster relief assistance including financial relief funding,” said Blohm.

Bringing All the Data Together

Online content was an important part of developing the big picture at the EOC. The đô thị not only displayed the information it was collecting in the field but also looked at seismic activity from the US Geological Survey, weather patterns from the National Weather Service, & local citizen vulnerability based on the US Census Bureau data.

“We included many authoritative sầu data providers in our data feeds to take advantage of their live sầu streaming data services so that we could deliver a comprehensive, real-time common operating picture for our EOC,” said Blohm. “The beauty of ArcGIS Online is its ability khổng lồ easily bring all of that data together lớn display it &, more importantly, chia sẻ it.”

“At the thành phố of Salem, we embrace using ArcGIS as a platform. Without that, I don’t think we would have had the success we did on this exercise,” concludes Blohm. “You have khổng lồ use all of the different components of the platsize in order to have sầu a complete picture và develop a successful EOC program. This was a fast-traông xã project và we were able to stand it up quickly and easily.”


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Jim Baumann

Jyên ổn Baumann is a longtime employee at vuialo.net. He has written articles on GIS giải pháp công nghệ and the computer graphics industry for more than 30 years.