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URISA Community Resilience Committee


In recent years much has been done to encourage and facilitate actions that improve community resilience to disasters. Disasters can originate from a wide range of sources, such as natural hazards (floods, fires, earthquakes or hurricanes), anthropogenic hazards (cyber, nuclear or other forms of terrorism), disease outbreaks, political unrests and more. The ability for a community to be resilient is dependent on how well it understands its risks along with the knowledge about the exposure and vulnerability of structures, infrastructures, population and physical environments that define the community. While GIS professionals and others have long worked to develop resources, there remain many challenges that must be overcome to fully realize the potential GIS offers for improving community resilience.

URISA formed the Community Resilience Committee that strives to leverage and expand on the work of geospatial stakeholder groups to address several questions: What impediments to data collection and dissemination exist? What best practices could be implemented that address these issues? What mechanisms exist or can be developed to increase awareness and collaboration between resilience researchers and GIS practitioners? What partnerships can be enabled to improve community resilience?

The Committee has developed multiple products that engage and inform URISA members and other stakeholders in matters related to the role of GIS and community resiliency. For example, we developed a Story Map that provides access to the work of the Committee. We also conducted a survey to gather information related to the questions that the Committee is exploring. The results of the survey were featured in The GIS Professional. We are continuing to develop products that support our mission. We will continue to offer presentations at several conference venues and featured a number of presentations at GIS-Pro 2020.

Check out this  story map highlighting how URISA’s Community Resilience Committee is taking action to produce resources that help enhance resilience at the local level. Click image below:

Defining Resilience
Community resilience is the ability of individuals, communities, organizations and states to effectively incorporate geospatial technologies and data to reduce the impacts of natural disasters. It defines abilities and strengths to adapt to and recover from disasters as well as any downstream shocks or stressors without compromising long-term prospects for development. Community resilience is composed of eight main elements that leverage geospatial technologies to manage, analyze and produce information in pursuit of a holistic approach to resilience. These include, but are not limited to local knowledge about risks, vulnerabilities and impacts; social networks; transportation and utility infrastructures; public health risks and services; governance procedures for addressing a crisis; economic investments; and preparedness.

Working Groups

Partnerships and Communications Working Group

The Partnerships and Communications Working Group has the following goals:

  • To communicate the strategic goals of the Community Resilience Committee to stakeholders both within and beyond URISA;
  • To provide communication techniques for local communities to consider in emergency preparedness and community resilience planning; and
  • To disseminate best practices in emergency preparedness and resilience communications for GIS professionals.
  • To Demonstrate the role of geospatial in public, private, academic, and non-profit partnerships in creating resilient communities.
  • Collect knowledge about the current use of GIS by individuals and organizations to inform community resilience
  • Identifying data needs
  • Offer key resources and recommendations that will facilitate greater partnership activity, including model best practices

Best Practices Working Group

The purpose of this workgroup is to identify best practices to help stakeholders implement and operationalize community resilience approaches. The Best Practice Group will identify:

  • Data requirements and scale of analysis
  • Stakeholder partnerships
  • Availability of models and their usability to inform stakeholders undertaking community resilience efforts that are usable and reproducible.

Climate Change & Climate Equity Working Group

The URISA Climate Change and Climate Equity Working Group promotes and enhances climate equity by empowering communities in applications of geospatial data and methods to improve understanding and support advocacy and policy change. Specifically, the working group focuses on social, cultural, racial and ecological aspects of climate justice and equity. Approaches include consideration of climate action mitigation and adaptation strategies which support the development of community capacity, sustainability, and resilience to climate change. Geospatial methods may proactively assess and promote policy and action essential in addressing these issues. As a leading association of geospatial professionals, URISA will work with like-minded organizations around the globe to support this mission.

Community Resilience and Sectoral Dependencies Working Group

The vision of the group is to identify and disseminate best practices to ensure resilience of communities and infrastructures. While resilience is not a new concept, best practices in place to make communities and infrastructures resilient rarely account for concurrent high risk/low probability events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and high risk/high probability events like the wildfires that have been raging across the United States’ west coast. The group will work with stakeholders to identify current state of infrastructure protection plans, limitations and advantages of these plans, and potential path forward for best practices based on existing plans and policies.

Products and Resources
The Community Resilience Committee is currently working to develop beneficial resources such as story maps, communications guidance, survey data and more. Please stay tuned as we finalize and roll out these products. 

Get Involved
To learn more about how you can get involved in the Committee, please reach out to Dr. Shane Hubbard or any of the Committee members.

Steering Committee

  Dr. Shane Hubbard, Ph.D.
Dr. Hubbard is a research scientist at the Space Science and Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. His research in disaster science focuses on geospatial modeling approaches that improve decision making that leads to minimizing the impacts from those hazards. He helped construct a building evacuations model for the University of Iowa campus that is used during flooding events to assist their efforts in evacuating campus buildings vulnerable to flood waters. Dr. Hubbard has also been working in Puerto Rico since 2010 on various projects that help to build their capacity to model the impacts from hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes for preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation actions. He is currently Chair of the Community Resilience Committee.
  Kevin Mickey, GISP, CTT+
Kevin is the current President of URISA as well as the former Chair of the Community Resilience Committee. He is the Director of Professional Development and Geospatial Technologies Education at The Polis Center, an applied research center at IUPUI. His experience includes directing and supporting projects involving the creation of geospatial tools and workflows as well as conducting analysis related to natural hazard risk. He also has  designed, managed and instructed courses in introductory through advanced GIS topics including multiple courses on natural hazard risk management. 

Dr. Bandana Kar, Ph.D.
Dr. Bandana Kar is a Research Scientist in the National Security Emerging Technologies Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). She was an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Geology at the University of Southern Mississippi before joining ORNL. She has a Ph.D. in geography from the University of South Carolina at Columbia. Her research focuses on integrating geospatial and computational sciences to study the (i) interaction between natural-human systems and (ii) the impacts of extreme events on human systems and the built environment. Her theoretical research interests are in scaling and spatio-temporal modeling, crisis informatics, risk communication, reproducibility and replicability, and applied research interests are in community resilience (economic and public health) and infrastructure resilience (power infrastructures, transportation and infrastructure interdependency). She currently chairs the Best Practices workgroup.

  Michael Glenn O’Grady
Michael Glenn O’Grady was the founding chair of URISA’s Policy Advisory Committee and is currently serving as chairman again.  Glenn recently completed his second term on the URISA board and is a former URISA president. He has been a member of URISA since 1979. Glenn retired from local government in 2006 after spending the majority of his 30-year career in some GIS capacity. He was a planning commissioner for the City of Encinitas, California, for ten years with the last three years serving as the chair.

  Theresa (Tari) Martin, GISP
Mrs. Martin is a Program Manager with the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS Foundation, where she is responsible for managing a team of technologists in the development of technology solutions used by emergency managers and first responders in the field, at the Incident Command Post, and in the Emergency Operations Center. She also serves as a lead subject matter expert in the design and curation of location-enabled tools and resources for risk analysis, preparedness planning, and exercise design and conduct.

Prior to joining NAPSG Foundation, Mrs. Martin worked for over 10 years supporting public safety at the county and municipal government levels where she led the integration of geospatial analysis in emergency management planning and the development of GIS-based tools for emergency operations during response. She is also the co-writer of the Emergency Preparedness for GIS URISA workshop. Ms. Martin holds a BS in Environmental Science and Policy from the University of Maryland College Park and is a certified GIS Professional.

  Teresa Townsend
Teresa is a founding partner and the Chief Executive Officer of Planning Communities, an urban planning and environmental socially-responsible firm, and has been a leader in integrating geospatial sciences in community, transportation and environmental planning for more than 25 years. As a seasoned urban and environmental professional planner, she is known for her deep passion for creativity and love of data to understand social and environmental complexities. Teresa is a past president of URISA.

Foundational to her core beliefs in social and environmental responsibility, her work spans and is integrated across disciplines into key focus areas of community visioning, climate action plans, urban function and design, land use planning, smart cities, zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) infrastructure, urban greening to achieving equitable sustainable futures. She currently chairs the Climate Change and Community Equity Working Group.

  Dr. Norm Levine

Dr. Norm Levine is Professor of Geology & Environmental Geosciences at the College of Charleston, Charleston, SC  and an active member of the Environmental and Sustainability Studies (EVSS) and Public Administration Graduate Programs. He is an applied geologist specializing in the integration of GIS and Remote Sensing Technology in Geologic, Environmental and Hazards Issues, Geoarchaeology, Data Science and Visualization. He has been the primary Advisor to over 60 master’s students to date including 11 applied Master’s internship projects.

Dr. Levine serves as the Director of the LowCountry Hazards Center (Charleston, SC), As well as, the Director of the College’s the Santee Cooper GIS and Remote Sensing Laboratory. Additionally, he is the current Director of the State’s South Carolina Earthquake Education and Preparedness Program. Dr. Levine is a HAZUS trainer and has served on federal panels for Functional Resilience and digital mapping. Dr. Levine is a founding member and on the advisory board of the Charleston Resilience Network.

 Xan Fredericks, GISP 

Xan currently serves on URISA’s Board of Directors and is the Community Resilience Committee Board Liaison. She works with the US Geological Survey as the Associate National Map Liaison to Florida, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands for the National Geospatial Program and is the Lidar Coordinator for the Coastal and Marine Hazards and Resources Program. Xan is also a member of the Geospatial Information Response Team and Co-Chair of the Florida Coastal Mapping Program Steering Committee.

  Jarrod Loerzel

Jarrod Loerzel is a research social scientist with the Community Resilience Group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, MD. He is leading the Community Resilience Assessment Methodology project at NIST and has a background in participatory GIS, socio-ecological systems, and survey methodology. He holds a MS in Environmental Studies and a Masters in Public Administration, both from the College of Charleston (South Carolina).

Want to get involved? Contact the Chair, Dr. Shane Hubbard.



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