5B.4
Utilizing mobile devices for enhanced storm damage surveys

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010: 11:45 AM
B218 (GWCC)
J. Parks Camp, NOAA/NWS, Tallahassee, FL; and K. Stellman and J. Settelmaier

The proliferation of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and its integration into mobile communications devices has opened the door for a revolution in how field work is conducted in the National Weather Service. Timely and spatially accurate data are imperative in storm damage surveys. The media and public are often anxious to know the cause and extent of severe thunderstorm damage, and utilizing mobile communications equipment promises to expedite the storm assessment process.

A proof of concept project, conducted by the NWS during the 2008 and 2009 severe weather seasons, demonstrated the use of GPS and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to record, evaluate, quality control, and disseminate storm damage information using a GPS-enabled laptop computer in the field. Storm damage information was entered into a laptop application, and then uploaded to a central database using cellular Internet technology. The data were then available online for editing, analysis, and dissemination.

The NWS is currently investigating the use of BlackBerry* smartphones to perform the key functions performed on the laptop in the demonstration project. In addition to the data entry capabilities of a laptop computer, the use of a photo- and GPS-enabled BlackBerry device allows geo-tagged damage photographs taken in the field to be uploaded to a central server in near-real time. This capability is currently being developed using Freeance Mobile Software*, and ESRI ArcGIS Server*.

In addition to the ability to record data and images in the field, the other key component in this process is the immediate storage of the data on a central database. Once on the central database, the door is open for displaying and analyzing the data spatially via a Web browser or other GIS software. Near real-time evaluation, quality control, and editing of the incoming data can be performed before the damage evaluation (i.e. EF-rating) is finalized. Eventual integration with the NWS Inter-Regional Integrated Services database project would allow even greater interoperability with other National Weather Service datasets (spotter reports, local storm reports, Storm Data, etc.).

*NOTE: Mention or display of a trademark, proprietary product, or firm in text or figures does not constitute an endorsement by the National Weather Service, NOAA or the Department of Commerce, and does not imply approval to the exclusion of other suitable products or firms.