June 20-28, 2013, a series of record thunderstorms soaked much of Wisconsin, dousing some communities with more than a foot of rain. The resulting flooding and mudslides closed hundreds of roads, washed out culverts, damaged property, and left messy debris across the State.
After the rains subsided, State officials initially estimated cleanup costs in excess of $9 million for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and repairs to roads and other public infrastructure.
To determine if the State could qualify for federal disaster aid assistance, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to conduct a Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) to detail the type and estimated dollar value of damages associated with the June rainstorms.
State and local emergency management used RunMobile’s Damage Assessment Reporting Solution (DARS) extensively to report and collect data before and during the PDA.
Traditional data collection for a statewide PDA can be a time-consuming, manual process. Assessment teams typically fan out across the disaster zone and document damage with pen and paper and digital cameras. Counties aggregate paper reports municipality-by-municipality and re-key data into multiple spreadsheets, which are then sent to the state. Statewide data are ultimately consolidated into a single report used as supporting documentation for a disaster declaration and request for a PDA.
DARS allows assessors to complete their reporting using a mobile application, eliminating paper forms and saving valuable time. Assessors can use the DARS application on any smartphone or tablet to complete assessments in online or offline mode. They can attach photos and video evidence, and identify GPS coordinates, for each individual assessment.
Assessments are sent directly from the app to a secure database—eliminating burdensome manual data entry, while enabling real-time viewing and analysis. Users can then easily download report data for use in a PDA.
On July 9, Governor Walker requested that the FEMA conduct a PDA of public infrastructure damage. Local and State officials started PDA data collection in mid-July. Using mobile devices and the DARS application, assessors visited damage sites in northern and southern Wisconsin. The extensive documentation captured by the DARS application included detailed damage estimates and photos of road and bridge damages across 11 Wisconsin counties.
Assessors submitted the damage assessment reports directly from their devices to the server. State and federal emergency management officials viewed the damage reports as field staff submitted them through the secure Command Center portal, which enabled officials to begin their analysis sooner.
As each county completed the data collection, they were able to analyze the extent of the damage from the Command Center portal. Once complete, supporting data from DARS were downloaded directly into Uniform Disaster Situation Report (UDSR) templates. The Wisconsin Emergency Management agency collated the county requests, and Governor Walker formally requested a Federal Disaster Declaration on August 2. The State completed the entire process for 11 counties within three weeks.
On August 8, just six days after the request, the President approved a Federal Disaster Declaration for eight counties and one tribe in the State. The declaration provided for public assistance, which covers eligible projects such as debris removal and road repairs. Under the program, FEMA will provide 75 percent of eligible costs, while the State of Wisconsin and local agencies share the remaining 25 percent.