Emergence Alumnus Making a Difference: Assisting Emergency Management through Crowdsourcing

Emergence 1902 alumnus Eric Shreve, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Applications Developer for the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (AZ DEMA).

Accurate and timely information is critical to the success of any emergency operations center (EOC). For EOCs handling Gray Sky day events across large rural areas, gathering and displaying actionable information is one of the early challenges. Center of Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) Emergence 1902 alum Eric Shreve, serving as a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Applications Developer for the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (AZ DEMA), is leveraging his Emergence experience to connect existing social media technologies with his expertise in the GIS environment.

Utilizing the Survey123 mobile application, Shreve adapted existing technologies to maximize data-driven decision making for AZ DEMA. The easy-to-use mobile application allows the collected data and geospatial information from any smartphone or mobile device equipped with GPS. Shreve utilized his GIS expertise to incorporate Survey123 data into actionable information through real-time map creation stemming from observations arriving from the field. Whether originating from first responders or, more importantly, civilians living in the remote areas of Arizona who are often the first ones on the scene following a natural disaster, the integration of Survey123 provides a significant force multiplier and source of information.

With his previous experience serving on the front lines with the U.S Forest Service as a wildlands firefighter, Shreve applied his first-hand knowledge of the informational challenges associated with natural disasters, particularly in remote and lightly populated areas, into the focus of his Emergence change initiative. “There is often a disconnect between information technology and GIS specialists and those serving on the ground…my experience as a firefighter unquestionably gave me insights essential to this project’s success,” Shreve stated. With his knowledge gained through the Emergence program, Shreve deployed Survey123 and is now incorporating field observations into the EOC. He commented, “People in the field can simply take a picture of flooding or an impassable road on their smartphone, the system collects the corresponding GPS data, and through the application, we can now bring that data into our decision-making processes.” Following Emergence, Shreve coordinated with the Phoenix National Weather Office and established a beta test of the application with the local storm reporting community to expedite information sharing from the public.

Although the technical issues associated with the project proved less challenging, Shreve still needed to mitigate the traditional individual and organizational resistance to change. Luckily, the CHDS footprint extended into AZ DEMA leadership.

Wendy Smith-Reeve, a graduate of the Executive Leaders Program (ELP) Cohort 1702, served as the DEMA Deputy Director/Emergency Management Director and was instrumental in encouraging Shreve to apply for the Emergence program. “She was exceptionally helpful in building my interest and understanding of CHDS programs and a true champion of my project upon my return.” Additionally, he worked closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS (NAPSG) Foundation representatives to analyze similar efforts originating from recent hurricanes in Puerto Rico and Florida. Collectively, with his agency’s support and incorporation of lessons learned from other FEMA efforts, Shreve effectively turned an Emergence project into a deployed tool to assist emergency managers.

Beyond the change initiative projects, the Emergence program brings together professionals within the homeland security enterprise building an exceptional network that extends beyond the classroom. Working with his fellow 1902 cohort mate Patrick Campion, a Homeland Security Program Analyst with the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES), he will be presenting a paper entitled Building a Data-Driven Culture within Emergency Preparedness Agencies at the 2020 National Homeland Security Conference in Chicago this summer. The presentation highlights several strategies organizations can implement to build a data analytics culture within their agency, with the focus on assessing and building emergency preparedness capabilities. The presentation includes several data analysis best practices and program successes from the DHSES and AZ DEMA. “The networking opportunities are such an amazing aspect of the program…I would never be presenting at such a prestigious conference without the connections made at Emergence,” Shreve noted.

Reflecting on his overall experience, Shreve discussed the uniqueness of the Emergence classroom. “The facilitated discussions are unlike anything I had experienced and something I am bringing back to my organization,” he stated. Continuing, Shreve remarked, “I learned so much about the homeland security enterprise by simply engaging in critical discussions…it is a true strength of the program.” Going forward, it is clear he will continue to positively impact AZ DEMA through the implementation of new technologies as well as his ability to generate the critical thinking expected from all CHDS alumni.