CAP Geospatial Team Analyzes Data Collected After Kentucky Floods

More than 50 Civil Air Patrol members from 27 states as well as an overseas squadron in Japan have been helping electronically assess damage from flash flooding two weeks ago in eastern Kentucky.

“Our hearts go out to our Kentucky neighbors affected by the waters,” said Brig. Gen. Richard Dickens, vice commander, First Air Force-Air Forces Northern. “We are humbled to be able to support the disaster response as part of the larger inter-agency team.”

The Civil Air Patrol members are part of the online National CAP Geospatial Team, which consists of both adult and youth volunteers within the U.S. Air Force auxiliary who have completed Federal Emergency Management Agency Damage Assessment Training to analyze GIS data to support missions as a Total Force partner of the Air Force. Acting in that role, Civil Air Patrol helps First Air Force rapidly respond to nonmilitary threats domestically in a Defense Support of Civil Authorities capacity to save lives, relieve suffering, prevent property damage, and provide humanitarian assistance.

The response to the disaster in Kentucky is the geospatial team’s eighth mission in support of FEMA in the past year. CAP’s partnership with FEMA involves many mission areas, including GIS work.

“We have proven our capability, and this disaster continues to demonstrate the number of members who have the expertise to support these events,” said Capt. Scott Kaplan, CAP’s national geospatial program manager. “It’s an amazing team of people, and it’s continuing to grow.”

FEMA’s first call to the team came July 29 in the hours immediately after severe flooding in Kentucky the day before. It involved integrating photos and video obtained from online sources to assess damage in the hardest-hit counties in eastern Kentucky. 

As the scope of the disaster grew, the need for more trained personnel quickly became apparent.

Within hours, 53 Civil Air Patrol volunteers, including members from the 113th Cadet Squadron at Misawa Air Base, Japan, had answered the call to support the mission. The team’s 49 senior members and four cadets started their work by analyzing CAP’s airborne oblique imagery by using the FEMA Damage Assessment Tool to determine the amount and level of damage. By Day Two of the mission, they had also begun analyzing images taken by Kentucky state search and rescue ground teams.

So far, the CAP geospatial team has recorded 1,377 virtual visual assessments of damaged structures and 199 high-water mark captures.

“This was a textbook example of an expanding mission,” said Capt. Christopher Freeze of the Virginia Wing, who served as CAP’s incident commander.

“Thankfully, we were able to apply many of the lessons learned in our recent multiday training exercise, adapt to the new and unique challenges presented in this real-world disaster, and take note of additional opportunities to improve the service we contribute to our communities for the future,” Freeze said.