The Department of Homeland Security deployed several technologies during the lead-up and response to Hurricane Dorian, which hit the southeastern United States as a Category 1 hurricane Sept. 6.
During the storm, several local stakeholders in North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland participated in a field pilot of more than 100 “internet-of-things low-cost field sensors,” which allowed for flooding alerts, according to a post from William Bryan, senior official performing the duties of the undersecretary for Science and Technology at the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T).
The sensors were provided by DHS S&T. The sensors are designed to measure and report rapidly rising water levels back to an operations center. According to a document from DHS S&T in 2018, the sensors cost less than $1,000. They were made by Evigia Systems, Inc., Physical Optics Corporation (POC), and Progeny Systems Corporation.
DHS S&T also used technology developed with the Department of Defense that provided situational awareness from mobile devices. This technology, dubbed the “Team Awareness Kit,” allowed response teams to visually track responders in real time, while sharing other data “across jurisdictions.” Ultimately, it allowed a “collaborative federal response to Hurricane Dorian.”
The Team Awareness Kit was originally deployed in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a devastating hurricane that struck Houston, Texas, in August 2017. It was originally developed in 2010 for combat operations, but in later years was developed for civilian federal, state and local use. It also allows for the transmission of encrypted data.
The department also deployed software that combines forecast and planning data to emergency officials. This system, called the Web-based Hurricane Evacuation (HURREVAC) system, provided tools to help officials plan evacuations with more precision, an effort to eliminate any “over evacuation” or “under evacuation.”
HURREVAC provided planning and training before the hurricane made landfall. According to DHS, 2019 was the first hurricane season where the software was fully deployed. The program is widely used — in 2018, over 5,000 emergency managers from 19 states had accounts for the software. During Hurricane Dorian, “several hundred new users, from the Bahamas, the U.S. and other foreign countries, were added to the system during the hurricane,” Bryan wrote.
“[DHS] S&T-developed technology deployed during the storm ran the gamut from tools for projecting the hurricane’s path, storm surge, inland flooding and dam failures, to tools for coordinating response teams on the ground, locating survivors trapped in debris, and more,” Bryan wrote.