Hurricane Season Starts June 1st – Is Your Community Prepared?

NOAA will announce the 2020 Hurricane Season outlook in a national teleconference on May 21st. With Hurricane Season around the corner, Niyam’s Risk Analytics team is gearing up to partner with lead agencies like FEMA, NOAA, and the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) to provide risk modeling tools and data to coastal communities across the U.S. Working together, these teams leverage their combined modeling expertise and information visualization and data source integration capabilities to develop enhanced wind loss products that facilitate critical decision making before, during, and after major hurricanes make landfall.  

Niyam began participating in coordinated hurricane season modeling in 2016 and continued through the catastrophic 2017 and 2018 seasons – including hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, Lane, Michael, and Florence. Real-time modeling efforts provide detailed impact estimates, such as building damages, shelter needs, and economic losses, to support response and recovery resource allocation and communication (Figure 1). 

Map of direct economic losses caused by Hurricane Florence for buildings by county in North Carolina
Figure 1. Direct economic losses for buildings estimated from the Hazus Hurricane Wind loss model for Hurricane Florence (2018) .

Our Risk Analytics team models potential hurricane impacts using FEMA’s Hazus Program – one of the world’s only free and open risk modeling tools - implemented by emergency management organizations across the U.S. and around the globe. In fact, as the team responsible for developing Hazus, our team of risk assessment experts is considered a national leader in hazard impact analysis.  

Graph showing building values exposed to natural hazards in Puerto Rico by census occupancy type according to previous Hazus data and updated data.
Figure 2. Building values exposed to natural hazards in Puerto Rico by census occupancy type according to previous (light green) Hazus data and updated (dark green) data.

In preparation for future hurricane seasons, Niyam is helping FEMA integrate comprehensive, updated risk assessment data for the U.S. Territories into Hazus loss estimation tools to ensure vulnerable communities like Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have the risk information they need to respond to and recover from hurricanes. In 2019, building counts, values, and square footages were aggregated for every census block in each territory using best available footprint data and expert methods for estimating risk-related building attributes. These data updates demonstrate a significant increase in hazard exposure across the territories when compared with previous outdated data (Figure 2). In 2020, hurricane-related vulnerability attributes like roof type and window treatments will be estimated and added to public datasets available from the FEMA’s Hazus Program. Find out more about updated nationwide risk assessment data here.

Niyam also updated nationwide point and segment locations for Hazus infrastructure layers in partnership with the Homeland Infrastructure Foundation Level Data (HIFLD) program.  Building and infrastructure inventories are fundamental inputs for any risk analysis project, and these updates will substantially improve the accuracy of risk and exposure metrics across the U.S.

For more information about our work in hurricanes, read more about our hurricane modeling partnership in FEMA’s Hazus Quarterly Newsletter! 

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