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U.S. Census Bureau’s Emergency Management Tools, Surveys Are Increasingly Important When Disasters Strike

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As Puerto Rico and Florida continue to recover from widespread destruction caused by two recent hurricanes, federal agencies have launched a major effort to provide resources to battered areas.

The 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season continues through November 30 and millions of Americans have been impacted by the massive floods in Texas (in August) and Central Appalachia (September) in Kentucky.

Recovery efforts are likely to continue for months, if not years, and disaster managers require the right tools including timely, accurate data to ensure an optimal coordinated response.

The U.S. Census Bureau provides timely local data critical to emergency planning, preparedness and recovery efforts.

Led by the White House and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the response to Hurricanes Fiona and Ian in September has mobilized resources from federal agencies, state, local and tribal governments, the private sector and nonprofit organizations.

The U.S. Census Bureau provides timely local data critical to emergency planning, preparedness and recovery efforts. In addition to hurricanes and floods, the Census Bureau provides data and emergency management resources for earthquakespandemicstornadoeswildfires, and winter storms.

Several of these tools offer easy access to vital information needed to respond to an emergency, such as identifying areas where vulnerable populations live. That includes people in poverty, the elderly, the disabled, those who may be living alone and non-English speakers.

Census Bureau data can also help identify the number and types of businesses in areas impacted by a disaster and how many jobs may be affected. High-frequency data such as the Small Business Pulse Survey and its successor, the Business Trends and Outlook Survey, can also inform emergency response through timely surveys that help gauge the impact of natural disasters on local businesses.

When major disasters strike, visit the Census Bureau's Emergency Management page to access demographic and economic data for the impacted areas.

You will also find critical tools including:

  • My Community Explorer (MCE), an interactive map-based tool that highlights demographic and socioeconomic data that measure inequality and can help inform data-based solutions. This tool is designed to help users identify underserved communities as directed by the President's Executive Order 13985 promoting  Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce.
  • The Census Business Builder (CBB), a suite of services that provides selected demographic and economic data from the Census Bureau tailored to specific types of users in a simple to access and use format. The CBB’s Small Business Edition presents data for a single type of business and geography at a time. The Regional Analyst Edition presents data for all sectors of the economy and allows for user-defined regions made up of one or more counties.
  • OnTheMap for Emergency Management, a public data tool that provides an intuitive web-based interface for accessing U.S. population and workforce real-time statistics for areas being affected by natural disasters. The tool allows users to retrieve reports containing detailed workforce, population and housing characteristics for hurricanes, floods, wildfires, winter storms and federal disaster declaration areas.
  • COVID-19 Data Hub, a one-stop shop of demographic and economic resources related to COVID-19. It includes Advancing Equity Data Tools, COVID-19 Surveys and Estimates, Demographic and Economic Analysis, My Community Explorer, the COVID-19 Impact Report, demographic and economic data at a glance and additional federal resources.

We have also published America Counts stories and posted a webinar with further information on Census Bureau data tools for disaster response and recovery:

As these efforts make clear, the Census Bureau has prioritized and is working hard to assist the nation when disasters strike. 

Jane Callen is the senior writer/editor in the Census Bureau’s Communications Directorate.

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