Self-reporting disaster damage with new program can help streamline recovery process

Self-reporting disaster damage with new program can help streamline recovery process

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Trying to assess damage after a natural disaster can be a tedious process, and it can take weeks sometimes, or even longer.

But emergency management agencies around the state are now using Crisis Track, which helps keep up with damage and cost assessments, storm tracks, usage of manpower and equipment, and other important details that used to be paperwork.

“Instead of taking us a week to do damage assessment, it may take us a day to do it," said Joey Perkins at Hinds County Emergency Operations Center. "It allows us to look at citizen self-reporting in areas that we may not normally look at, like an area that may not regularly flood, where they flash-flooded.”

The citizen reporting streamlines the information gathering process. A citizen can submit a report through a link on his county EMA’s website that allows him to indicate whether it was residential damage or business, and then to detail what the damage was. His contact information is included, and emergency management officials can follow up for more details.

After the storms and winds that popped up in Rankin County early Wednesday morning, citizen reports to Crisis Track helped pinpoint where homes were affected so the Rankin County Emergency Operations Center could get to them to assess the damage.

A crisis track map shows homes that have been self-reported as well as the ones that haven’t, and they’re color-coded.

“The different colors on there are how much damage to that particular house. So if we wanted to know more information about a residence, we’d click on it and it gives us their information, their contact information, and more importantly the pictures that they upload as well,” said Rankin EOC’s Brian Grantham.

During the Pearl River flooding, Hinds County EOC got a crash course in using Crisis Track, and they say it proved invaluable. Especially the photos that were submitted by the self-reporting citizens.

“You know photos are important to document your damage, because once the water goes down you can’t see it, but you can take the picture standing in it or where it’s two foot up your wall,” said Perkins.

Self-reporting your damage gets attention to your area more quickly than in the past because EMA workers don’t have to hunt for visible wreckage as they can see it on a map.

EMA personnel have long conducted what are known as “windshield assessments,” where they go to known affected areas and drive through the neighborhoods, stopping to assess damage and interview homeowners and residents. If a resident of an affected home is not there, emergency workers have to return when someone is at home.

Crisis Track helps shorten that process, as many of those questions can be answered through databases used by the program.

The program has the capability to take measurements of a debris pile and then estimate man hours to remove the debris. It can also keep up with what equipment was used in what area and for how long, as well as showing which workers were in the area and counting their manpower hours.

Another function of the program uses tax and real estate information to fill in details on the estimated costs, not only helping with accuracy, but taking the pressure off EMA personnel to have to appraise the cost of disaster damage.

Most importantly to the good of the state, the program keeps up with all the information needed to be sent up to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in case a Presidential Disaster Declaration is needed.

In order to self-report your damage after a disaster, most counties that are using Crisis Tracks have links that can be accessed through their Emergency Management Agency’s website or social media.

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