The storms could not have struck at a more inconvenient time – not only falling on a holiday, but also occurring on a Friday into Saturday. On December 25, 2015 a large storm complex produced damaging winds and heavy rains from Texas through New England.
In Georgia the flooding from these storms would affect 33 counties and require $14.5 million in disaster assistance. With FEMA recently releasing disaster assistance data on the event, we can evaluate how damage assessment software changed the process for a small Georgia County collecting disaster costs and applying for disaster assistance.
Dade County (population 16,633) was one of the 33 Georgia counties affected by these storms. As many emergency managers in smaller counties are, Alex Case, the County's emergency manager, is dual-tasked with responsibilities for emergency services as well as information technology for the county.
When the storm's effects became known, Alex used Crisis Track – a recently purchased disaster management software solution – to view damage reports from the storm, perform a local damage assessment on roads and structures, and track the County's labor and equipment time spent. By implementing some automated processes during the disaster, Alex could concentrate efforts on the response. Alex was able to quickly map damage areas to effectively manage resource deployment. Once Alex saw the disaster costs exceed FEMA Public Assistance thresholds for the County, he electronically submitted reports and maps from the system to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA).
Dade County then used Crisis Track to electronically document the local damage assessment in the field and attached photographs, which was especially useful in documenting difficult-to-explain scenarios of damage. The local damage assessment estimated $1,767,750 in disaster costs from road damage on 14 sites.
Dade County also used Crisis Track to track the County's labor and equipment time spent working on disaster-related activities. The system has the ability to store inventories of labor and equipment rates and track time automatically through the mobile application. However, with the recent purchase Dade County had not yet rolled out training to the Public Works Department before the incident occurred. So, Alex's team manually entered time records into the system. With the selectable labor and equipment inventories, the system still made manual entry much easier and serves as a good example for how a manual collection process could be done. FEMA Public Assistance data show that grants covered all hours reported inside of Crisis Track.
With additional responsibilities being placed on emergency managers at local levels, smaller county and municipal emergency managers like Alex are implementing stress and time saving efforts to alleviate pressures during disasters. During this disaster, Dade County not only saved time during the local damage assessment, but also accurately tracked financial expenditures. The electronic data collected helped reduce typical State and FEMA issues associated with the financial aspects of disasters and provide their community the ability to receive much needed assistance in a timely manner.