Course Overview

The Geospatial Information System (GIS) Specialist is a key GIS Unit position within the Planning Section. This course helps trainees prepare to perform the responsibilities of the GIS Specialist in a FEMA environment in response to an incident.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Recognize how a GIS Specialist supports a response and recovery operation.
  • Identify sources of information and data within FEMA and the emergency management community
  • List the types of products commonly produced by the GIS Unit during an incident
  • Identify best practices for establishing and maintaining data flow, creating products, and meeting timelines during an incident
  • Identify how to appropriately handle and protect licensed, sensitive, or personal data
  • Recognize how to use remote sensing products
Screen Features
Navigating Using Your Keyboard

Below are instructions for navigating through the course using your keyboard.

  • Use the "Tab" key to move forward through each screen's navigation buttons and hyperlinks, or "Shift" + "Tab" to move backwards. A box surrounds the button that is currently selected.
  • Press "Enter" to select a navigation button or hyperlink.
  • Use the arrow keys to select answers for multiple-choice review questions or self-assessment checklists. Then tab to the Submit button and press Enter to complete a Knowledge Review or Self-Assessment.
  • Warning: Repeatedly pressing Tab beyond the number of selections on the screen may cause the keyboard to lock up. Use Ctrl + Tab to deselect an element or reset to the beginning of a screen’s navigation links (most often needed for screens with animations or media).
  • JAWS assistive technology users can press the Ctrl key to quiet the screen reader while the course audio plays.
Receiving Credit
Each lesson takes a variable amount of time to complete. If you are unable to complete the course in its entirety, you may close the window and reopen the course at any time. However, depending on the system used to take the course, it is possible you may have to repeat a portion of the last lesson you were studying.
Lesson Overview
You can now navigate through this course. The rest of this lesson will focus on the FEMA Position Task Book (PTB) and the defined behaviors for the GIS Specialist position.
Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Recognize the FEMA Qualification System (FQS) process.
  • Recognize the role of the FEMA PTB in the FQS process.
  • Identify the behaviors and tasks defined in the FEMA PTB for the GIS Specialist position.
FEMA PTB for GIS Specialist

This lesson aligns with the following PTB Behavior/Activity:

  • Ensure readiness for assignment prior to deployment.

Click here to open the FEMA PTB for the GISP Specialist position and review the specific tasks defined for this Behavior/Activity.

FEMA Qualification System (FQS)

The FQS establishes the system for qualification and certification of the FEMA workforce through experience, training, and demonstrated performance. The system was developed to:

  • Ensure a qualified workforce based on performance standards,
  • Establish minimum, consistent, and fair qualification requirements for all workforce positions regardless of employment status, and
  • Strengthen the training and qualification standards for all workforce positions by implementing improvements based on analysis.

Click on the different steps of the diagram below for more information on the FQS process.

Click this link to access a summary of the FQS Process Diagram image
FEMA PTB for GIS Specialist

The GIS Specialist PTB contains all the critical behaviors, activities, and tasks required to become certified as a GIS Specialist. When a trainee successfully demonstrates task performance for an FQS evaluator at an incident, the Evaluator signs off on those tasks in the trainees’ PTB. The PTB serves as the official record of successfully completed tasks.

This course does not address all of the behaviors and tasks in the PTB because many of the more generic behaviors, such as following established safety and security procedures, are addressed in other required FEMA training.

Click here to open the FEMA PTB for the GISP Specialist position.

Click this link to access a list of additional training that supports the development of GIS knowledge and skills.

Lesson Summary

This lesson presented the following topics:

  • The FQS Process
  • The Role of the PTB in the FQS
  • FEMA’s GIS Specialist PTB

The next lesson presents information about the resources you will use and the processes you will follow as a GISP at an incident, and describes how the GIS Unit interacts with and supports the incident response and recovery operation.

Lesson 2: Identifying Resources and Processes
Lesson Overview
Lesson 2 provides information about the resources and processes you will use as a GISP. It reviews different components of the ICS organization and the GIS unit, identifies key GIS doctrine, and identifies various GIS systems, tools, and data sources.
Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Recognize how GIS supports other components in a JFO
  • Identify key GIS doctrine and materials
  • Identify FEMA GIS systems and tools
  • Recognize authoritative data sources
Tying It Back to the Job

This lesson aligns with the following Position Task Book (PTB) Behavior/Activity:

  • Ensure readiness for assignment prior to deployment.

Click here to open the FEMA PTB for the GISP Specialist position and review the specific tasks defined for this Behavior/Activity.

Incident Command System Structure

As a new GISP, one of your first items of business is get a sense of how the organization is structured and find out who you’ll be working with. This lesson will help you do that.

Let’s start with an overview of the incident management structure you’ll be working within. All FEMA incident management activities are organized according to the Incident Command System (ICS) structure. Under the leadership of the Unified Coordination Group (UCG), a FEMA Joint Field Office (JFO) includes the following four Sections: Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance & Administration. The Geospatial Information Unit (GIU) is organized within the Planning Section.

Click on each of the links below to access more information.

GIU Mission and Responsibilities

As a new GIS Specialist, it’s also important to be familiar with your Unit’s mission and responsibilities.

What is the Mission of the GIU?

The mission of the GIU is to produce high-quality geospatial products, data and services in support of emergency management. Geospatial products and information play a key role in FEMA’s preparation for and response to incidents.

What are the Responsibilities of the GIU?

GIU responsibilities include the following:

  • Generating geospatial products
  • Managing geospatial data
  • Ensuring compliance with established policies and protocols
  • Providing geospatial coordination and customer service
  • Operating specialized hardware and software applications
GIU Positions

Now let’s take a look at the staff members within the GIU.

Who Staffs the GIU?

For a large-scale incident, the leader of the GIU at the JFO is generally the Geospatial Information Unit Leader (GIUL) who reports directly to the Planning Section Chief. In smaller disasters, the Unit may be led by a Geospatial Information Manager (GIMG). The GIUL/GIMG is supported by one or more Geospatial Information System Specialists (GISPs), and, when needed, Remote Sensing Specialists (RMSPs) as well.

While the GIU organizational structure is flexible, each position has a specific set of responsibilities which support organizational efficiency as well as unity of command.

Click on each of the positions below to access more information about each GIU position.

GIS Support for Other Components of the JFO

As a GIS Specialist, you may be asked to provide products and services for a variety of different components within the JFO, such as:

GIU Positions

As a GISP, it is important to be familiar with the doctrine that guides your work. Critical GIS doctrine is provided in the following documents. Taking the time to become familiar with the information in these documents will make the transition into a GIU much smoother.

Federal Interagency Geospatial Concept of Operations (GeoCONOPS)

Geospatial Incident Management and Support Guide

GIS Systems

When you check-in to a JFO, you will receive a laptop that includes all the software you need to perform your assigned duties. This will include standard GIS tools and software available to FEMA personnel.

In addition to the laptop, you will be given access to geospatial data, as well as access to the printers (including desk printers and large-format printers) you may need to produce your products.

For additional information about FEMA GIS enterprise tools, see the Geospatial Incident Management and Support Guide.

GIS Data Sources

As a GISP, one of your primary responsibilities will be to gather the data needed to complete your tasks. You will have a number of different data sources at your disposal as you do so. Click on the data sources below to learn more:

Recognizing Authoritative Data Sources

When collecting information, you have many possible sources to work with. While all information is valuable for establishing Situational Awareness, it is important to ensure that information is cross-checked with an authoritative data source.

What is an Authoritative Data Source?

An authoritative data source is a recognized or official data production source with a designated mission statement or source/product to publish reliable and accurate data for subsequent use.

Authoritative data falls into one of two categories:

Data sources can be either internal or external to the JFO.

Credible and Non-Credible Sources

Being able to quickly gather data that is both current and accurate is always a challenge. You will need to continuously evaluate your data sources since some will be more credible than others.

Select the links below to learn more about credible and non-credible sources.

Lesson Summary

This lesson presented the following topics:

  • Recognize how GIS supports other components in a JFO
  • Identify key GIS doctrine and materials
  • Identify FEMA GIS systems and tools
  • Recognize authoritative data sources

The next lesson explains how to get started in a JFO.

Lesson 3: Getting Started
Lesson Overview

In the previous lesson you were introduced to the resources and processes you will use on the job. In order to be an effective GIS Specialist, you need to know how to set up in your new environment and use the tools and resources you will have access to.

This lesson highlights the initial actions you should take upon entering the JFO and provides an overview of the kinds of GIS products you will be expected to produce.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Recognize how to check in to a Joint Field Office
  • Identify how to gather information relevant to an assignment
  • Identify the types of GIS products that need to be produced during a disaster
Tying It Back to the Job

This lesson aligns with the following Position Task Book (PTB) Behaviors/Activities:

  • Ensure readiness for assignment prior to deployment.
  • Follow proper check-in procedures upon arrival and obtain job-required equipment and supplies.
  • Obtain an initial briefing from immediate supervisor and gather information relevant to your assignment.

Click here to open the FEMA PTB for the GISP Specialist position and review the specific tasks defined for this Behavior/Activity.

Checking in to the Joint Field Office

Every member of the FEMA team must check in to the Joint Field Office (JFO) upon arrival to obtain necessary equipment and supplies and ensure the right procedures are being followed. Check in procedures include:

Obtaining an Initial Briefing

After you have checked in to the JFO and gathered the necessary supplies, the next step is to obtain an initial briefing. Your immediate supervisor’s briefing should provide you with:

During the initial briefing, you should bring up any topics, issues, or concerns you may have about your assignment.

Data Sources

In order to begin working on an assignment, you must know where to find the data and how to work with sources.

As you learned in Lesson 2, there are a number of data sources which you can use to collect data: internal and external partners, news sources, etc.

It is your job to identify data sources for the information you need.

Collecting Data

Data is required for every geospatial product and the quality of the data collected impacts the overall value of the products produced. When collecting data, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind.

You should:

You will learn more about protecting sensitive data in Lesson 6.

GIS Products and Functional Areas

The types of services and products you will be asked to produce will vary depending on the functional area you are working within.

Based on your interests, experiences, and skills, you may be assigned to work with any of the following functional areas:

GIS Products and Functional Areas

In a large event, it is not uncommon for the GIU to support large numbers of simultaneous projects per Operational Period. As you just learned, the specific types of services and products you will be asked to provide depends on the functional area you work within, the type of disaster you are supporting, and the operational tempo.

In general, however, you will find that GIU production generally supports three types of GIS requests:

Lesson Summary

This lesson presented the following topics:

  • Recognize how to check in to a Joint Field Office
  • Identify how to gather information relevant to an assignment
  • Identify the types of GIS products that need to be produced during a disaster

The next lesson explains how to respond to common requests for GIS services and products.

Lesson 4: Responding to Common Requests
Lesson Overview
In Lesson 3, you learned how to get set up for your work as a GIS specialist. This lesson presents information about the GIS products you will be asked to produce and provides an overview of the workflow process you will follow as you produce these products. It also provides an overview of the quality assurance/ quality control process used to ensure the production of high quality GIS products.
Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Identify the GIS products commonly produced during an incident
  • Recognize the GIS product workflow process
  • Recognize the quality assurance/quality control process used to ensure the quality of GIS products
Tying It Back to the Job

This lesson aligns with the following Position Task Book (PTB) Behaviors/Activities:

  • Manage geospatial data
  • Generate geospatial products
  • Comply with established policy and protocols
  • Provide geospatial coordination and customer service

Click here to open the FEMA PTB for the GISP Specialist position and review the specific tasks defined for this Behavior/Activity.

Key GIS Products During a Disaster

As you learned in Lesson 3, the products produced during a disaster will vary based on the type of disaster, the stage of the disaster, and the functional area that you are assigned to. There are, however, a number of common GIS products you may be asked to produce. These include:

Responding to Project Requests
While you have no doubt produced GIS products before, you may not be familiar with the FEMA GIS production process. At a high level, the FEMA GIS workflow process includes the following phases:
PHASE 1: Planning & Direction

The GIS production process starts with the receipt of a GIS request by the GIUL (for a large incident), or the GIMG (for a smaller incident). The request may be submitted either in hardcopy format or through a web-based system.

Once received, the GIUL/GIMG uses his/her expertise to:

The GIUL/GIMG then prioritizes the project request, identifies the best person to complete the request, and assigns the request to a GIS Specialist for completion.

PHASE 2: Project Assignment

So now you’ve received an assignment. What should you do next? When you receive a project request from your manager, make sure you gather the necessary information. Your manager may also ask you to talk directly to the customer in order to gather additional information. You should ensure that, at the minimum, you:

  • Clearly understand the assignment
  • Know when the assignment needs to be completed

Certain high-priority projects will need to be completed immediately. Make sure you understand, and are able to meet, required deadlines. Managing customer expectations along with establishing time and resource requirements for production is a key step in defining a project’s scope and effectively supporting the mission.

PHASE 3: Exploration – Data Collection

The next phase in the production process is exploration. This phase includes both data collection and initial data analysis.

You should begin collecting data as soon after receiving the project request as possible. Talk to your manager about existing resources and find out where to go to gather additional data. Your manager may redirect you to another section within FEMA, or ask you to interface directly with the customer.

You may find that data is already available from internal or external sources or that, in some cases it is not available and needs to be developed. In all cases, it is important to work with the customer to ensure that the data used is as accurate and current as possible.

PHASE 3: Exploration – Initial Data Analysis

During the initial datareview, you will examine the data to determine the method to satisfy the customer’s request.

When analyzing data, you should:

  • Write down what you think the product should show
  • Describe what you are mapping (the data)
  • Describe what the data tells you (the distribution)
  • Note any special considerations such as outliers, high or low values, or missing values
PHASE 4: Production–Building the Product

The fourth phase, Production, involves building the product, conducting further analysis of the data, and conducting a review of the final product. This phase within the product development process is key to adding value to the visualization of geospatially-enabled data.

As you begin the production of a product, you should always consider the following:

  • Symbology requirements
  • Product layout standards
  • Fulfillment of all requirements within the project request
Phase 4: Production – Value-Added Analysis

Most analytic products should contain a brief synopsis that communicates the results, meaning and significance. This can be as simple as a few sentences, but should strive to eliminate any questions the customer might have about the overall story that the product was intended to convey. This will ensure a more efficient response. Usually, it is your manager’s responsibility to include this synopsis, but sometimes it can also fall on your shoulders.

For products sent via email, this description can be the first few lines in the body of the message. For products posted to another dissemination platform, this can be included in a “Description” field about the product.

Phase 4: Production –Quality Assurance/Quality Control

Before you deliver a finished product to a customer, you should always have a member of your team review your work. While this does not have to be a formal quality assurance/quality control process, it is a critical part of the production process, since a fresh set of eyes can often find errors that may have been inadvertently overlooked during the production process.

Depending on the size of your team or the priority of the product, your reviewer may either be your supervisor or another GIS Specialist.

Phase 4: Production –Provide Specific Feedback

In addition to making sure that all established standards and guidelines have been met, the quality assurance/quality control reviewer may also provide specific feedback about the product. This might include feedback as to whether the product:

  • Conveys a clear story/the story you want to tell.
  • Is based on current data and authoritative datasets.
  • Includes data source references.
  • Is visually appealing.

Remember that the products you produce should do more than just document information. Your ability to analyze and communicate data will enable other members of the team to more quickly and effectively support the disaster effort.

PHASE 5: Dissemination

The final phase in the production process is dissemination. As a GIS Specialist, you may or may not be responsible for the actual distribution of the products. If you are not, it is your responsibility to alert your supervisor once the product is completed so that they can then distribute the product to the customer.

GIU products can be provided in digital and/or hardcopy formats.

Lesson Summary

This lesson presented the following topics:

  • Identify the GIS products that need to be produced during a disaster effort
  • Recognize the GIS product workflow process
  • Recognize the GIS quality assurance/quality control process

The next lesson explains how to work within the Unit.

Lesson 5: Working Within the Unit
Lesson Overview
In Lesson 4, you learned how to respond to common requests for GIS products and services. In this lesson, you will learn how to work within a GIS Unit (GIU). You will learn how geospatial products are compiled and analyzed and how metadata is used to document GIS data. You will also learn about dealing with the time constraints you will encounter when working in a GIU.
Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Compile geospatial data into geospatial products
  • Analyze data to support incident decision making
  • Identify how to document data
  • Identify strategies for working within time constraints
Tying It Back to the Job

This lesson aligns with the following Position Task Book (PTB) Behaviors/Activities:

  • Manage geospatial data
  • Generate geospatial products
  • Practice effective and appropriate interpersonal communication and team behavior

Click here to open the FEMA PTB for the GISP Specialist position and review the specific tasks defined for this Behavior/Activity.

Importance of Geospatial Products

During an incident, the geospatial products you produce are used across all levels of FEMA to help decision-makers allocate and deploy resources in support of State and local partners and make the critical decisions needed to support the mission.

You are responsible for gathering the information needed to develop the requested products. Necessary information will come from a variety of sources and will be provided in diverse formats.

Data Gathering

Gathering timely and accurate data is a critical GIS task. During a disaster, you will be challenged to quickly gather and combine information to create products that can help emergency planners more effectively support the mission.

As a GISP, you will need to very quickly become familiar with the data sources available to you so that you can quickly access the information you need. You may even want to develop a checklist of available data sources that you can refer to as needed.

Compiling Geospatial Data to Create Products

Once you have the data you need, your next task is to compile the data into the geospatial products you have been asked to produce. Depending on the needs of your customer, you may be asked to provide products in the form of a map, a spreadsheet, a briefing slide, or even a written report.

Be sure to work closely with your customer to identify the type of product needed.

Data Layers for GIS

As you have already learned, the products that you will be asked to produce depend on the type of incident and the stage of the incident you are in. In some cases, you may need to compile multiple layers of data to create the product.

For example, in the event of a flood, emergency planners will want to know where the dry areas are located so that disaster facilities can be established. To meet this need, you may need to create maps showing flood extent layered with information about transportation networks and available facilities.

Data Analysis

Regardless of the complexity of the task, your goal is always to develop timely, accurate, and relevant geospatial information and products that can be easily interpreted by multiple end users for a wide range of disaster relief functions.

This means that you will do more than simply compile data. You also need to carefully analyze the data to ensure that the products you create give decision makers the information they need to make informed decisions.

Data Analysis and Incident Decision Making

Accurate and timely data analysis is critical in a disaster situation and can even result in lives saved.

To learn more about what this means, click "Data Analysis and Incident Decision Making Story."

What is Metadata?

As a GISP, you are also responsible for creating metadata records for the data you develop. A metadata record represents the who, what, when, where, why, and how of a digital resource. It compiles information into a single record that captures the basic characteristics of your product and makes your product identifiable.

Metadata can be used to document common types of data, including GIS files, databases, and imagery.

What is Metadata?

The current Federal standard for geospatial data is the Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata developed by the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC). Whenever possible, full metadata for all new or event-specific data, GIS files or earth imagery should be created in compliance with these standards.

NOTE: Any data that will be made publicly available on the FEMA site (www.fema.gov) must have full metadata.

Metadata Minimum Elements

Sometimes, during the response to an incident, there is not sufficient time or resources to create fully compliant metadata records. For those times, metadata records must be created with the following minimum elements:

  • Abstract
  • Title
  • Originator
  • Publication Date
  • Process Description
  • Geographic Coordinate System Name
  • Horizontal Datum Name
  • Security Classification
  • Time Period (Currency, Date and time)
The Nature of the Beast

As a GISP, you may find yourself working on multiple projects simultaneously. At any given time, you could be providing information about shelter or housing, responding to a request for information about urgently needed medical supplies, and gathering data about the location of logistics facilities.

Multi-tasking is a crucial skill that you will need as you work on diverse projects for different groups

Dealing with Tight Deadlines

When working within an incident, you are often required to produce geospatial products on a very tight timeline. To accomplish this, keep the following considerations in mind:

Lesson Summary

This lesson presented the following topics:

  • Compile geospatial data into map and data products
  • Analyze data to support incident decision making
  • Identify how to document data
  • Identify strategies for working within time constraints

The next lesson will describe tactics for working with sensitive data.

Lesson 6: Working with Sensitive Data
Lesson Overview

In the previous lesson, you learned what it is like to work within a GIU. You learned how to compile data into maps and data products, how to analyze geospatial data to provide answers to diverse questions, how to document data and how to work within tight time constraints.

In this lesson, you will learn how to share, store, and protect the sensitive data you may encounter as part of your work. You will learn about requirements to adhere to copyright, disclaimer, licensing, and other sensitive product and data distribution protocols.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Recognize how to work with sensitive data
Tying It Back to the Job

This lesson aligns with the following Position Task Book (PTB) Behaviors/Activities:

  • Comply with established policy and protocols

Click here to open the FEMA PTB for the GISP Specialist position and review the specific tasks defined for this Behavior/Activity.

Using Markings and Disclaimers

When working in a GIU, you may sometimes encounter material that includes sensitive or personal information that needs to be protected. This lesson will introduce you to the common disclaimers used at FEMA to avoid the inadvertent disclosure of sensitive information.

Common disclaimers for products generated by the GIU include:

  • Privacy Act Disclaimers
  • For Official Use Only Disclaimers
  • Disclaimers Requiring Coordination and Approval
  • Commercial Imagery Markings
Privacy Act Disclaimer

The Privacy Act of 1974 provides protection against unauthorized disclosure of any records (documents, papers, charts, graphics, maps, etc.) which contain a person’s name or other Personally-Identifiable Information (PII).

As a GISP, it is important to recognize that all data derived from the Individual Assistance (IA) program is protected under the Privacy Act, specifically when an individual applicant could be identified from the map.

Derived map products that include PII require a disclaimer that contains the following language:

This document may contain information protected under the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. §552a (2000). Neither this document nor the material contained therein may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission of FEMA.

Protecting Personally Identifiable Information

One way to protect PII is to develop map products at a scale of 1:100,000 or less. Most map products developed at this scale will not require the disclaimer presented on the previous screen, though this should be verified with the appropriate authorities such as the IA Branch Director (IABD), and the Office of Chief Counsel (OCC) representative.

If such a scale is not possible, alternative presentations of the data should be used. This might include, for example creating a product that generalizes IA applicant data using the U.S. National Grid (USNG) at 1 kilometer intervals.

Recognizing Authoritative Data Sources

To preclude unauthorized access and ensure that all documents covered under the Privacy Act are handled appropriately, your manager will:

  • Ensure that all PII are properly secured
  • Ensure that any and all sensitive materials are destroyed using a cross-cut shredder
What is FOUO?

The marking, For Official Use Only (FOUO), is used to identify materials that contain unclassified information of a sensitive nature. While not classified, FOUO materials need to be protected in accordance with appropriate security policy.

FOUO designations require coordination with the data provider and approval through the Planning Section Chief and FCO. All maps, geospatial products, charts, and other graphics that meet this threshold are prominently marked in the upper right and lower left corners with the following caveat:

Disclaimers Requiring Coordination and Approval

Special issues at the JFO may require the use of other disclaimers included in the standard operating procedures. These are coordinated with your supervisor and program personnel who are involved with the final products. These are approved by the Office of Chief Counsel (OCC) representative. This often involves restrictions on distribution of map products to only authorized parties, or written designation on the geospatial product.

Such a product might include, for example, a disclaimer such as the following:

FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY: This product may be protected by one or more copyrights and license restrictions. Neither this document nor the material contained herein may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer.

Working with Commercial Imagery

As a GISP, you will also work with commercial imagery, most of which is licensed or copyrighted. When working with commercial imagery, you must convey the data license terms and conditions as appropriate.

Data License Information

It is also recommended that data license information be included when sharing/distributing image products. The format for marking products should adhere to the following template:

© 2007 ”Vendor’s Name”

Licensed under ”Contract Name”

Note: If the copyright material is only part of the work, the notice should read: “Contains data © 2007 ”Vendor’s Name”. For display purposes (such as when creating PowerPoint® slides, posters, etc.), you must maintain the “Copyright: © 2007 “Vendor’s Name” marking.

Releasing Information to the Public

FEMA is making more and more information available to the public, not only through traditional news media, but through emergent social media platforms as well. This is also true for geospatial data and products.

Before releasing any geospatial products to the public, be sure the products have been approved for release by your supervisor.

Lesson Summary

This lesson presented the following topics:

  • Recognize how to work with sensitive data

The next lesson explains how to use remote sensing products.

Lesson 7: Using Remote Sensing Products
Lesson Overview
This lesson will focus on remote sensing capabilities and the use of remote sensing products in GIS.
Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Identify remote sensing capabilities
  • Recognize the steps of the remote sensing workflow process
  • Use FEMA damage classification system to convey the severity of an incident
Tying It Back to the Job

This lesson aligns with the following Position Task Book (PTB) Behaviors/Activities:

  • Manage geospatial data

Click here to open the FEMA PTB for the GISP Specialist position and review the specific tasks defined for this Behavior/Activity.

What is Remote Sensing?

Remote sensing (RS) refers to the acquisition of information (typically imagery) from ground, aerial, or satellite sensors.

RS is very useful during an event when areas are isolated or communication is limited. RS can provide critical information about an event, which can then be integrated into geographic information systems to produce maps or analytic databases.

This information can then be used by emergency managers and decision makers at all levels of the response structure.

How is Remote Sensing Used?

Remote sensing capabilities greatly improve a geospatial information unit’s ability to provide situational awareness for a wide area in a very short timeframe.

Imagery and the data derived from it can be used to:

  • Assess levels/patterns of damage within disaster areas.
  • Assess impacts to populations and critical infrastructure.
  • Monitor and assess the extent of flood inundation and storm surge extents.
  • Assess scope and extent of debris fields within an area of impact (AOI).
  • Support Situation Awareness in inaccessible areas.
  • Quickly assess the order of magnitude of an incident.
  • Enhance communication with survivors about the status of property and infrastructure.
Remote Sensing Capabilities

In your role as GIS Specialist, you will analyze data and images gathered by remote sensing sensor capabilities attached to platforms (e.g., satellites, planes and ground vehicles) that can observe areas of interest (AOI).

To gather the information needed (and account for differing environmental factors), a number of different capabilities may be used. Select the links below to learn more about remote sensors and how they work.

Geo-Tagged Photos

While satellites and planes are a valuable resource for gathering data remotely, today they are no longer the only tools available. Smartphones can also be used to provide geospatial data. With the increased availability of “smartphones” and GPS enabled digital cameras, emergency management personal can now provide critical information on developing situations in near-real time.

In addition, the aggregation of these photos (for example in social media outlets) can provide additional perspective on the “where and when” of developing situations.

360° Interactive Video

360° interactive video is also used to provide needed GIS information. This technology stitches photographs together to provide the end user with a unique virtual experience. Many users are now familiar with this process, in part because of sites such as Google’s Street View© or Microsoft’s Street Side©.

This imagery can be quickly collected with specialized equipment mounted on automobile roofs and processed immediately following collection. Processed imagery can be posted and available for use in most mapping applications shortly following acquisition.

Full-Motion Video (FMV)

Another technology used to provide GIS information is full-motion video (FMV). FMV provides the ability to view motion imagery dynamically in real-time (RT) or near-real time (NRT).

The continuous and persistent NRT capability of the feed enables users to view changes over time. In addition, FMV can be simultaneously broadcast to multiple consumers, allowing all echelons (HQ, Regional, Field, State, etc.) to view the same picture at the same time.

Accessing RS Data

With proper coordination, RS data can be available to any user to assist with mission support requirements. For Stafford Act events, RS efforts are coordinated by FEMA through the JFO, RRCC, and NRCC RS Coordinators.

As the ESF 5 Coordinator, FEMA works with the US Geological Survey (USGS), National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and other Federal departments and agencies. Imagery is acquired, analyzed, and disseminated using a systematic process referred to as TCPED that includes five phases: tasking, collection, processing, exploitation, and dissemination.

Collection Management

When working with remote sensing data, you will follow the TCPED framework shown here.

FEMA Damage Classification System

During an incident, RS data and imagery are analyzed and annotated based on the damage classification system guidelines developed by FEMA.

These guidelines are used by geospatial analysts to determine the type and magnitude of damage. Trained image analysts, including staff from NGA, delineate the damaged areas according to FEMA’s criteria and provide this information to responders in both map and data product formats.

Lesson Summary

This lesson presented the following topics:

  • Remote sensing capabilities
  • The remote sensing workflow process FEMA Damage classification system

The next lesson explains how to check out of an incident.

Lesson 8: Checking Out of an Incident
Lesson Overview
In Lesson 7, you learned how to work with remote sensing products. In this lesson, you will learn how to transition duties to a replacement and how to check out of an incident.
Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Recognize how to transition responsibilities to incoming/replacement GIS staff
  • Recognize how to check out of an incident
Tying It Back to the Job

This lesson aligns with the following Position Task Book (PTB) Behaviors/Activities:

  • Ensure continuity of operations during the transition of duties to a replacement
  • Properly check out of the incident

Click here to open the FEMA PTB for the GISP Specialist position and review the specific tasks defined for this Behavior/Activity.

Leaving an Incident

Depending upon the incident objectives and the severity and stage of the incident, the GIU will both expand and contract as required. The goal is to ensure that the number of personnel available matches the needs of the mission.

As a GISP, you may find yourself leaving an incident under one of two circumstances:

GISP Transition Responsibilities

As a GISP, some of your major responsibilities during transition are to:

GISP Incident Checkout Responsibilities

Once the GIU closes down at the direction of the Planning Section Chief or at the closure of the JFO, staff members will need to check out. As a GISP, you have responsibilities for completing the check out process. Some of your major responsibilities include:

Lesson Summary

This lesson presented the following topics:

  • Recognize how to transition responsibilities to incoming/replacement GIS staff
  • Recognize how to check out of an incident

The next lesson summarizes the course and provides a review of the main points covered in this course.

Lesson 9: Summary and Conclusion
Lesson Overview
This lesson provides a brief summary of the GIS Specialist course. After reviewing the summary, you will receive instructions for taking the course post-test.
Lesson 2: Key Points

Lesson 2 provided information about the resources and processes you will use as a GISP and reviewed the different components of the ICS organization and the GIS Unit, identified key geospatial doctrine, and identified various geospatial systems, tools, and data sources.

The objectives for this lesson were:

  • Recognize how GIS supports other components in a JFO
  • Identify key geospatial doctrine and materials
  • Identify FEMA geospatial systems and tools
  • Recognize authoritative data sources
Lesson 3: Key Points

Lesson 3 focused on the initial actions, tools, and materials necessary when getting started at the Joint Field Office. It also provided an overview of the kinds of geospatial products you will be expected to produce.

The objectives for this lesson were:

  • Recognize how to check in to a Joint Field Office
  • Identify how to gather information relevant to an assignment
  • Identify the types of geospatial products that need to be produced during a disaster
Lesson 4: Key Points

Lesson 4 summarized the geospatial products you will be asked to produce and provided an overview of the workflow process you will follow as you produce these products. It also provided an overview of the quality assurance/quality control process used to ensure the production of high quality geospatial products.

The objectives for this lesson were:

  • Identify the geospatial products commonly produced during an incident
  • Recognize the geospatial product workflow process
  • Recognize the quality assurance/quality control process used to ensure the quality of geospatial products
Lesson 5: Key Points

In Lesson 5, you learned how to work within a GIS Unit (GIU) including how geospatial products are compiled and analyzed and how metadata is used to document geospatial data. You also learned about dealing with the time constraints that you will encounter when working in a GIU.

The objectives for this lesson were:

  • Compile geospatial data into map and data products
  • Analyze data to support incident decision making
  • Identify how to document data
  • Identify strategies for working within time constraints
Lesson 6: Key Points

In Lesson 6, you learned how to work with sensitive data including what sensitive data includes, what markings and disclaimers are used, and how to correctly work with, share, and store products that include sensitive data. You also learned how to adhere to requirements associated with the use of copyright and licensed data.

The objectives for this lesson were:

  • Recognize how to work with sensitive data
Lesson 7: Key Points

In Lesson 7, you focused on the use of remote sensing products in GIS.

The objectives for this lesson were:

  • Identify remote sensing capabilities
  • Recognize the steps of the remote sensing workflow process
  • Use FEMA Damage Classifications to convey the severity of an incident
Lesson 8: Key Points

In Lesson 8, you learned how to transition duties to a replacement and how to check out of an incident.

The objectives for this lesson were:

  • Recognize how to transition responsibilities to incoming/replacement GIS staff
  • Recognize how to check out of an incident
Additional EMI Independent Study Courses

To learn more about the content covered during this course, you can take additional EMI independent study courses such as:

  • Introduction to GIS courses (provided by many external sources)
  • EMI (E190) ArcGIS for Emergency Managers
  • ESRI – Learning ArcGIS Desktop
  • ESRI – HAZUS-MH online courses
  • ESRI – Learning ArcGIS Spatial Analyst
  • ESRI – Creating, Editing and Managing Geodatabases for ArcGIS Desktop
  • ESRI – Understanding GIS Queries
  • ESRI – Using Python in ArcGIS Desktop – Introduction to Python and Integration with ArcGIS Desktop
  • ESRI – Basics of the Geodatabase Data Model
Online Resources

For more information, you can also log onto these websites:

Lesson Summary
Thank you for taking this course. After completing this lesson, you will receive instructions for completing the course test.