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FEMA Corps Perspectives on Fulcrum

June 19, 2013

Last month, FEMA Blue 1 attended a 2013 Joint Interagency Field Exercise (JIFX) hosted by the Naval Postgraduate School in Camp Roberts, California. NPS conducts a biannual RELIEF conference that fosters innovation and cooperation toward disaster response and is attended by representatives from academia; private industry; state, local, and federal government; non-profits; and international organizations.


FEMA Blue 1 team with Tony and Coleman

Blue 1’s mission was to help FEMA conduct experiments designed to evaluate several aspects of the disaster assistance process. We spent our days comparing the flexibility and functionality of iPads, Samsung and Nexus tablets, and various disaster applications in mock field exercises. Throughout the week, we worked closely with Spatial Networks’ Tony Quartararo and Coleman McCormick and their application, Fulcrum.

Fulcrum is an extremely flexible open source map program that can be tailored to almost any context. At JIFX, Blue 1 collaborated with Spatial Networks to build Fulcrum to the unique characteristics of disaster response.

We were introduced to Tony and Coleman almost immediately after we were issued a myriad of mobile devices. The pair made sure Fulcrum was downloaded and oriented correctly on our devices and explained how the application should work. Soon after, we were released into the field to test out the various applications and start collecting data. We experienced bugs and frustrations with each different device and application (the Nexus tablet has only a front camera which made photos for damage assessments cumbersome; certain applications seemed completely dependent on connectivity; the Pelican cases did nothing to protect iPads in the field), but overall we had a great time logging pseudo hazards (“Bigfoot spotted”) and DRCs (“location: Narnia”). When we returned to the tent we were able to debrief the exercise with our points of contact.

Testing Fulcrum with FEMA

Testing Fulcrum in the field

Throughout the week’s field testing, Tony and Coleman were able to take our perspectives & feedback and immediately make changes to the application to better fit our needs. Immediate access to Fulcrum’s programmers greatly improved our experience with the application and our overall experience as data collectors. JIFX was a unique opportunity for Blue 1. We were able to witness the collaboration of government and private entities and help facilitate the development of products that may very well be used for future disaster response. Our access to Tony and Coleman was beneficial in that we could watch as they tweaked and molded Fulcrum to suit ours and FEMA’s needs. We really appreciated Tony’s and Coleman’s accessibility and openness during JIFX and hope to work with Fulcrum again in the future!

FEMA Blue 1 Team

FEMA Blue 1 team at Camp Roberts

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NCCC-FEMA Corps is a partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). Modeled after AmeriCorps NCCC’s traditional program, FEMA Corps is a full-time, team-based, residential program for young adults ages 18 to 24. FEMA Corps Members are deployed exclusively to support disaster response and recovery projects. These projects range from working directly with disaster survivors to supporting disaster recovery centers to sharing disaster response and mitigation information with the public.