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A Task Force 1 helmet

A Task Force 1 helmet

While deployed to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005, Dave Weber saw an inefficiency in the way accountability forms and reports were compiled and organized.

“We’d get these stacks of paper that were, for all intents and purposes, worthless to our operation, because they couldn’t be processed,” he said. “And we couldn’t see it in a way we could use it very well. So we had to rely on markers on a street map to figure out where we’d been and where we were going.”

He decided to do something about it.

Weber spearheaded the creation of a system that uses information from the global positioning devices in each task force member’s cache and pairs it with Google Earth to give a quicker, more streamlined, real-time report to FEMA volunteers on the ground.

The system uses 24 symbols to mark where area-specific places such as damaged structures, destroyed structures, shelters and food distribution centers are. It also  allows rescue workers to map where rescues have been made, victims currently reside, where remains have been discovered, and more.

“Really, it’s us using a mouse-trap system to use equipment we have in our cache to get digital reporting,” Weber said.

The system began as a grassroots effort and developed further with input from various task force members from across the country. Last year, it became a FEMA Directive Program for system-wide use across the country. Currently, Weber is working with various other volunteers and administrators to improve the system with a potential for smartphone use in the future.