The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is ready to debut a high-tech tool to provide quicker disaster relief should it be needed after Hurricane Isaac, expected to hit New Orleans on Wednesday.
Federal officials, working to avoid a repeat of the delayed post-Katrina aid, plan to use a new app to track disaster relief rather than a pen-and-paper process for people applying for help.
The Corps developed the app and has partnered with AirWatch, an Atlanta-based mobile security company, for device security and management through a contract with FEMA.
The app provides an updated version of the Operation Blue Roof process (named for the blue tarps used to identify homes in need of aid). It will allow federal workers access to a smart-phone-based data collection system via 120 iPhones or iPads. Relief efforts for Hurricane Issac will be the first time the app is used anywhere, according to AirWatch.
The Operation Blue Roof app will be deployed locally on the ground and at Emergency Centers where aid is needed.
By tracking the information digitally from the homeowner application to the completion of contract work, the Corps hopes to eliminate the need for cumbersome paper handling used in the previous Operation Blue Roof process.
The app is a “mobile device and content management system that can both meet demand and ensure delivery of critical data for repairing damaged homes,” said Mark Williams, Director of Government Solutions at AirWatch.
There are three sets of people that are involved in the Operation Blue Roof process; the homeowners that request assistance, the Corps of Engineers personnel that manage the Blue Roof operation, and the contractors that perform the actual temporary roof, floor and window repairs. Each set has a unique digital interface for their portion of the mission.
Homeowners in need of assistance apply by interacting with the screen and their information is captured digitally from the start of the process. Smartphones are then used to by QA personnel to track inspection data, take photos and notes of damage, and enter quantities of repair
materials required. They are also used to tell USACE personnel the exact GPS location of the home (sample app image pictured above), and serve as a communication device for leaders to locate and communicate with deployed response personnel.
Kiosks will be located at disaster relief locations to make it easier for people to apply for aid.