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In this 5-part blog series, we interview GIS and emergency management expert, Richard Butergerit, on the use of GIS technologies to improve catastrophe response.
GIS Technology’s Impact on Disaster Preparedness & Response
In last week’s blog post, we talked about the trend toward more frequent disasters across the country and introduced you to Richard Butgereit, our Director of Catastrophe Response.
This week, we continue the conversation by diving deeper with Richard into how GIS technology is being leveraged to improve disaster preparedness and response.
What role does GIS technology play in disaster management?
Richard: “One of the big misconceptions is that GIS is simply a mapping tool. But GIS is about much more than that – it is an analytical, data management and visualization tool that when combined with remote sensing, can provide a wealth of invaluable location information to the public as well as governments, public safety organizations and commercial industries.
When it comes to disasters, GIS is crucial in making responders and the public aware of everything from current conditions, predicted future conditions, tracking natural disasters, and modeling damage to accurately determining the location of 911 calls.”
How does GIS help prepare us for disasters?
Richard: “GIS gives us the opportunity to better leverage location information to forecast, model, and understand what could happen and when we might expect conditions to occur at a given location. This is crucial in helping prepare for a disaster because it can enable public safety organizations, first responders, and even insurers to be better prepared for how to respond to a catastrophe – before it strikes.”
How does GIS play a role in the initial response to a disaster?
Richard: “Real-time information is crucial to a catastrophe response effort as a whole. GIS is instrumental in leveraging locational information in order to help organizations, local governments, and state governments improve their response time. Monitoring traffic conditions and road closures, 911 calls, storm reports, social media posts, and power outages all inform the initial response to a disaster.
GIS provides information such as where the storm struck, where the affected populations are located, where the roads are closed, and more. By leveraging this level of intelligence, teams can be more effectively dispatched to provide aid.” Tell us more about 911 calls. How does GIS play a role?
Richard: “As mobile technology becomes ubiquitous, quickly locating people in need during an emergency has become a more difficult task. Without a fixed landline location, emergency responders are often dispatched to the wrong location, or the response time for an emergency is lengthened.
A localized emergency begins with a 911 call. GIS, leveraging the right oblique aerial imagery, has helped solve this issue by assisting in “visual triangulation,” the use of oblique images to determine the location of a point in space. Leveraging location information contained in this imagery, emergency responders can better identify landmarks in the vicinity of incidents. These visual cues enable responders to locate citizens in need of help quickly and with precision.
Additionally, oblique aerial imagery has transformed the level of critical insight an emergency responder has access to before arriving at an incident. Crucial data, like the location of  emergency exits in a building, is now available – arming emergency responders with the knowledge to make them more effective in response efforts.”
Stay tuned next week as we dive into how GIS is leveraged in beginning recovery efforts after a disaster to help make communities feel whole again.

GIC activated to Level 3 – Enhanced Monitoring on 8-June for monitoring wildfire conditions in the Central Valley and areas north of San Francisco in California. The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag Warnings & Fire Weather Watches to alert of the onset, or possible onset, of critical weather and dry conditions that could lead to rapid or dramatic increases in wildfire activity.

Pacific Gas & Electric has shut off power Saturday to about 1,600 customers in Northern California and may do the same for thousands more to reduce the risk of wildfires. The utility announced Friday night that as of Saturday morning it will turn off electricity to customers in Napa, Solano and Yolo counties west of Sacramento. The utility said it also will monitor conditions in parts of the Sierra foothills Saturday night through Sunday when they will be at peak fire risk. The company said it could decide to cut power for up to 30,000 customers in Butte, Yuba, Nevada, El Dorado and Placer counties.

A few small fires have already had local officials call for some mandatory evacuations. GIC will continue to monitor conditions. If requirements for aerial imagery over these areas arises as conditions worsen, please reach out to

We’re excited to announce Citizens Property Insurance Corporation has joined the Geospatial Intelligence Center! “Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, Florida’s insurer of last resort, has joined the Geospatial Intelligence Center (GIC), an insurance industry consortium spearheaded by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). Through the consortium, Citizens has access to advanced imagery to offer enhanced disaster response services designed to expedite claims and improve fraud detection following a hurricane or other disaster.” Read the full story here.

This past weekend officially marked the start of the Atlantic 2019 hurricane season. As we look to the future, new strategies and capabilities are needed to better mitigate, prepare, respond, and recover from these devastating events.
This past year, the United States saw unparalleled devastation. Major events included catastrophic wildfires in California and two of the strongest hurricanes to hit the United States in decades.
In September 2018, Hurricane Florence struck the coastline of North Carolina and brought record flooding, dangerously high winds, and a hazardous storm surge. Reports estimate $17 billion in total damage across the state.
Hurricane Florence, September 2018 – Image rights Vexcel Imaging
The following month, Hurricane Michael, hit Florida. It was recorded as the strongest storm to ever hit the panhandle, initially classified as a Category 4 hurricane and later re-classified as Category 5,  making it the fourth strongest storm in US history.  
Hurricane Michael, October 2018 – Image rights Vexcel Imaging
Then November came with massive wildfires which broke out throughout the state of California. The northern fire, Camp Fire, became the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history. Current Cal Fire reports document 89 fatalities and over 18,000 structures destroyed.
California Wildfires, November 2018 – Image rights Vexcel Imaging
Hail, tornadoes, droughts, and other severe weather storms ravaged different parts of the nation adding up to 14 major events in 2018 and an estimated cost of $91 billion for the US as a whole. Already in 2019, disasters have affected many parts of the country. The Geospatial Intelligence Center (GIC) has responded to 7 disaster events in 2019 including floods in Sonoma County, California; hail storms in Collin County, Texas, and Raleigh, North Carolina; and tornadoes in Lee County, Alabama; Ruston, Louisiana; Jefferson City, Missouri; and Dayton, Ohio.
Sonoma County, California Flood – March 2019 Image Rights Vexcel Imaging
Dayton, Ohio Tornadoes – May 2019 Image Rights Vexcel Imaging
Jefferson City, Missouri Tornado – May 2019 Image Rights Vexcel Imaging
Though trends indicate there will be an increase in the number of disasters in our future, new technological advancements can help combat the severity of damage associated with these events. One of these technological categories is GIS.
Curious how? In this 5-part blog series, we interview GIS and emergency management expert, Richard Butergerit, on the use of GIS technologies to improve catastrophe response.
A little bit about Richard…
Richard spent 12 years at the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM), where he served as the Chief Information Officer for the Division and Technical Services Branch Chief for the Florida State Emergency Response Team (SERT).
At FDEM, he provided information to facilitate decision makers, sustained information technology and information management for emergency planning, mitigation, response, and recovery to the Division and the State Emergency Response Team.
After working with the Geospatial Intelligence Center (GIC) during Hurricane Michael to help facilitate geospatial imagery and data to the public sector, he saw the impact the GIC initiative could have on a large scale. Richard joined the GIC team as the Director of Catastrophe Response in November 2018 and now is leading response efforts to continue to transform how both private and public organizations combat the severity of these disaster events. Q&A:What attracted you to a career path in GIS? “My first attraction to maps was volunteering with the Monteverde Conservation League and working with conservationist Wolf Guindon. Before the days of GPS, we hiked in and around the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, the Children’s Eternal Rain Forest and other conservation lands with a compass and some laminated topo maps. I returned to the states, enrolled in college at New College in Sarasota, Florida, and began to work at Myakka River State Park with many mapping related projects. Conducting my thesis project at New College, I built a GIS before I ever really knew what a GIS was — using an early Macintosh graphics program called Canvas to create layers that could be turned on and off to visualize and manage the restoration of a coastal hammock on Longboat Key, Florida. After graduation, I got hired as a biologist with the Florida Park Service and given ArcView 2.1 and a Trimble GPS backpack unit. I was hooked and soon on my way mapping everything I could. ”
Though today’s world is challenged with an increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters, GIS technologies have the power to better prepare and combat the severity of the event. Stay tuned for next week’s post on the impact GIS technology is having on disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.


Gray Sky, News
Today we published imagery collected on 28-May for the tornadoes that struck Dayton, Ohio.  Images were collected over areas of the city and are now available via secure web maps and services available at
If you have any questions please reach out to us at Credentials for public safety stakeholders to access the data may be requested at