Federal agencies are modernizing their processes and providing innovative solutions to better deliver mission outcomes to the American public. Recently, the US Department of Agriculture created a tool that uses public datasets to enable federal and state emergency response agencies to communicate vital security, safety, and public health information.
Government plays a critical role in helping citizens protect life and property in the event of an emergency. Agencies must get the right message to the right people with enough time for them to act. The government’s success depends on its ability to identify the right news outlets and provide them with relevant information to relay to citizens.
That is easier said than done. Hurricanes and tornadoes don’t limit their movement to specific media markets. Contaminated rivers impact watersheds, not just specific states or cities. Matching the information to the right geographic areas can be challenging.
It’s critical that during an emergency, messaging isn’t too broad or citizens and news outlets may begin to disregard the seriousness of the risk. If alerts don’t go to local outlets or the right areas, people are not provided with the information they need to protect themselves and their loved ones.
For example, in the event of a water contamination event, officials can select the waterway using GIS location filters and place an appropriate sized buffer to generate an email distribution list for all of the media outlets in the impacted area. Agencies can then quickly reach the right outlets to warn households and businesses about a boil advisory or the risks of fishing and swimming in certain bodies of water will know.
The tool is also incredibly useful for promoting public health messages. Agencies can import any public data set to set the geographic search parameters. For example, public health agencies can promote health tips following heat advisories issued by the National Weather Service. In the event of emerging infectious diseases, public agencies can target the geographic region where the disease is emerging or modeled to spread and distribute information to affected populations with tips to avoid contraction.
USDA has begun to partner with other agencies to provide the tool to help them meet their mission and alert the public. With more users the database of media-outlets just gets larger and more accurate, making sure critical information reaches every citizen no matter where they live or which media outlets provide them news.
If you are a state or federal agency that would like to learn more about how to access the tool please contact Dirk.Fillpot@oc.usda.gov.