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URISA Community Resilience Task Force


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.

In early 2019, URISA formed a Community Resilience Taskforce 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 Taskforce 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 Taskforce. We also conducted a survey to gather information related to the questions that the Taskforce is exploring. The results of the survey were featured in The GIS Professional. We are continuing to develop products that support our mission and will be offering presentations at several conference venues including GISPro 2020.

Check out this  story map highlighting how URISA’s Community Resilience Task Force 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.

Task Force Working Groups

Partnerships Working Group
The Partnerships Working Group focuses on demonstrating the role of geospatial in public, private, academic, and non-profit partnerships in creating resilient communities. Current goals and initiatives include:

  • Collecting 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.

Communications Working Group
The Communications Working Group has three primary goals:

  • To communicate the strategic goals of the Community Resilience Task Force 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.

Products and Resources
The Community Resilience Task Force 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. A full program track is part of the agenda at GIS-Pro 2019 in New Orleans.

Get Involved
To learn more about how you can get involved in the Community Resilience Task Force, please reach out to Kevin Mickey or any of the Task Force members.


Task Force Members
  Kevin Mickey, GISP, CTT+
Kevin is the current President-Elect of URISA as well as the Chair of the Community Resilience Taskforce. He has nearly three decades of consulting experience for multiple federal agencies, state and local government, private sector, academic, and not-for-profit entities. Since 2003 his focus has been directing and supporting projects involving the creation of geospatial tools and workflows as well as conducting analysis related to natural hazard risk. His professional experience includes design, management and instruction of multiple courses in introductory through advanced GIS topics along with multiple courses in natural hazard risk assessment for FEMA as well as multiple state agencies. He is also Adjunct Associate Faculty for the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI where he teaches courses in the application of geographic information systems tools and concepts for emergency management and public safety.

  Alyssa Randall
Alyssa Randall is a Spatial Data Scientist for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in North Carolina. She has a background in coastal science and environmental education.  You may also know her as the “Mapper Rapper”, spreading GIS knowledge one rhyme at a time.

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.

  Bradley Dean, CFM, CE
Bradley is a Communications and Partnership Specialist with FEMA’s Risk Management Directorate (RMD) leading the development of RMD’s partnership strategy and the Resilient Nation Partnership Network. He also is the Secretariat for the Mitigation Framework Leadership Group (MitFLG) and the Deputy Chief Coordinator of the National Mitigation Investment Strategy (NMIS) Implementation Team. Prior to joining FEMA, he was the Resilience Planning Lead with Michael Baker International and spent two years with NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management (OCM) in the Policy, Planning, and Communications Division and the Geospatial Sciences Program. Bradley is a Certified Floodplain Manager and a Certified Ecologist. He currently chairs the Communications workgroup.

  Dr. Dapeng Li, Ph.D., GISP
Dr. Dapeng Li is an Assistant Professor of geographic information systems in the Department of Geography and Geospatial Sciences at South Dakota State University. Dr. Li has 15 years’ experience in GIS and specializes in research and development. His research focuses on GIS and its applications in hazards, public health, transportation, sustainability, and agriculture. Dr. Li is teaching introductory and upper-level GIS courses for the undergraduate and graduate GIS programs at SDSU. As a certified GISP, he is dedicated to educating the next generation of GIS professionals and helping them succeed in their career.

  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, in addition to being on the URISA board. He has been a member of URISA since 1979 and is a former URISA president. O’Grady retired from local government in 2006 after spending the majority of his 30-year career in some GIS capacity. He has been a planning commissioner for the City of Encinitas, California, for the past nine years and is currently serving as the chair.

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-Elect of the Community Resilience Taskforce.

  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 Partnerships workgroup.

Want to get involved? Contact the Task Force Chair, Kevin Mickey, GISP



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