301A A Look Back at Major Disaster Declarations: A GIS Perspective

Monday, 24 January 2011
Washington State Convention Center
James E. Hocker, SCIPP/Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK

Federal disaster declarations play an incredibly important role in the disaster recovery process by committing resources to long-term recovery as well as mitigation of future disasters. Since April 1, 1979 the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been responsible for the oversight and management of federally declared disasters. During this time a total of more than 1,600 separate major disaster declarations have been made across the U.S., representing many millions of dollars in recovery and mitigation assistance.

FEMA maintains a historical archive of declarations dating back to 1953, totaling more than 1,900 major disasters. These declarations include hazards such as severe storms, flooding, hail, wind, tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, blizzards, earthquakes, mudslides, landslides, late season freezes, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, and others, as well as man-made or infrastructure-related disasters such as water shortages, terrorist attacks, dam breaks, oil spills, and so on.

With nearly 60 years worth of disaster information now available, there is an excellent opportunity to analyze this information in greater depth spatio-temporally. FEMA has produced some excellent maps along these lines (such as http://www.gismaps.fema.gov/historical.pdf), which provide a wealth of information regarding the spatial frequency of disasters by county. The research effort to be presented here will further analyze the FEMA disaster archive using Geographic Information Systems in an effort to break down the hazard dataset by specific hazard type and over different timescales.

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