“By failing to prepare, you prepare to fail.”
That quote is often attributed to Ben Franklin—there is considerable doubt that he coined it—but regardless of whether he actually said it, the sentiment is unquestionably true. And for the United States Economic Development Administration and anyone interested in economic development or disaster resilience, data is the first step toward preparation.
The collection of data and, more importantly, the ease of use for that data, also is critical, and researchers at the Crisis Technology Innovation Lab at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering have developed a platform that presents disaster resilience and vulnerability profiles of all counties across the U.S.
The Analysis Platform for Risk, Resilience, and Expenditure in Disasters, or APRED, is a map-based tool that can be used by practitioners and policy makers involved with disaster resilience and economic development to visualize and drill-down into resilience metrics for any county in the country. Supported through a grant from the U.S. EDA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, APRED provides host of details about counties, including population, racial makeup, per capita income, and more, as well as a business vulnerability index, a disaster resilience index, and disaster declarations from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
“We really wanted to build a platform that incorporates risk, resilience, and expenditure data in one place,” said William Liao, the project manager of APRED. “If stakeholders are in the process of putting together economic development or hazard mitigation plans, or if they’re building for a more thriving economic future, or if they’re looking to create a plan that will be able to withstand the shock that happens in the wake of natural disasters, they need data all in one place. It allows them to piece together a story of how a community has done in the past and how it is doing currently, and it allows them to make inferences in how to plan for the future.”
The result is a web-based dashboard with a user-centered design shaped through a constant back-and-forth process with potential stakeholders. Using publicly available data and through collaboration with the Indiana Business Research Center at IU’s Kelley School of Business, APRED allows users to select any county in the country and quickly access up-to-date data about the area through an easy-to-use, dynamic map.
“A lot of our stakeholders are able to see where our tool makes sense in their workflows,” Liao said. “For instance, in the wake of a disaster, they may prepare grant applications, and they have the ability to go into the platform and really make the case for why their community needs funding use the data we provide. They can export data visualizations and drop them in the application, and that kind of thing was unprecedented in the past.”
The project is currently in its beta testing stage, but APRED is slated for a full release via webinar June 17.
“We really just want this tool to enable users to do their work in a more frictionless manner,” Liao said. “It’s really hard to put these grant applications together. It takes time, concentration, and energy, and the people who are tasked with finding funding for various grants genuinely want to be of service to their community. If we can make their jobs easier and allow communities to respond to disasters and become more resilient in the future, then we will have reached our goal.”
The grant for the work was awarded by the U.S. EDA in July 2019 and grew out of a previous collaboration between the Luddy School and the IBRC.
“Developing tools that allow users to turn data into actionable knowledge sits at the heart of informatics and is one of the driving goals of the Luddy School,” said Dennis Groth, interim dean at Luddy. “CTIL and its staff have established themselves as national leaders in disaster response, and this incredibly useful platform has the potential to make a variety of impacts on communities around the country.”
This publication was prepared by the CTIL and IBRC at Indiana University using federal funds awarded to the Trustees of Indiana University and as a sub-component under award number ED17HDQ3120040 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.