Washington, DC — Little more than six months after it was introduced, a Web site designed to give the public access to a nationwide coverage of digitally available multi-hazard maps and supporting data from federal, state and local sources is operating at an annual rate of more than 800,000 hits and 225,000 unique visitors, according to officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The maps are available on the Internet at www.HazardMaps.gov and can be viewed with a typical Web browser. The user can view maps by hazard theme or create a custom view showing areas of hazard overlap. In addition, FEMA says, more sophisticated users such as state or local government technicians can download Geographic Information Systems (GIS) files–an important tool in land-use planning, hazard mitigation, and disaster preparedness and response–and upload their own hazard map data.
Anthony S. Lowe, administrator of FEMA’s Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, called this “an ambitious implementation of Congress’ requirement that we develop, ‘multi-hazard advisory maps for areas, in not fewer than five states, that are subject to commonly recurring natural hazards.'” Lowe said this directive was contained in amendments to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act in 2000.
To address the mandate that the map system be practicable and cost-effective and use the most efficient technology available, Lowe said FEMA is coordinating with other agencies and the Open GIS Consortium to help develop and implement interoperability standards. This will allow hazard and infrastructure data from a variety of sources to be displayed together without being centrally managed, thus avoiding inefficiencies and duplication. There are already map layers on the site that use this technology, including U.S.Geological Survey (USGS) base maps.
Lowe said these activities and goals are consistent with recent e-government initiatives such as the Department of the Interior’s Geospatial One-Stop and the USGS’ National Map. FEMA is partnering with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and will establish other partnerships as the initiative progresses, he said.
“Using our new site to make maps available to appropriate state and local governments enables them to inform the general public about hazards and gain support for mitigation activities and a range of other efforts,” Lowe said. “For instance, a local official may need to plan countywide evacuation routes or develop land-use zoning maps. Knowing the historical overlap of events such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and severe winds, for example, would be an important factor in the process.”