E & E’s Cascarta is a powerful emergency planning tool


From 2012 to 2013, Larimer County, Colorado experienced a massive wildfire that destroyed hundreds of homes, plus severe storms, landslides and a catastrophic flood—all in the matter of just one year’s time. In response to these disasters, the Larimer County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) hired Ecology and Environment, Inc. to develop an innovative emergency planning tool called Cascarta.

Completed earlier this year, Cascarta is a custom web-based mapping tool that allows emergency managers, land use planners and communities to assess the potential effects of a disaster on a community’s infrastructure (including schools, hospitals, government buildings, utilities and more) by visualizing the resiliency of the built environment.

emergency planning tool
A user’s view of Cascarta, Ecology & Environment’s custom emergency planning tool.

E & E and the Larimer County OEM called this emergency planning tool “Cascarta,” combining the Italian words for cascade and map to capture the idea of mapping the cascading effects of a disaster.

Cascarta builds upon previous work completed at the local and national levels to measure community resiliency. It also compliments work that Larimer County has done since the devastating natural disasters to study and plan for community resiliency.

emergency planning tool
The Colorado National Guard provides assistance in securing evacuated areas during the High Park wildfire, which was caused by a lightning strike. (Official Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Jess Geffre)

To create a custom emergency planning tool like Cascarta, E & E was involved in every step of the development process.

STEP 1: the proposal

Development of tool concept, including:

  • Five core functions
  • A conceptual interface

STEP 2: DATA COLLECTION

  • GIS data collection with the Larimer County Office of Emergency Management
  • Stakeholder workshop and outreach to gather information on critical utilities and social infrastructure assets
  • Data import and preparation

STEP 3: tool development

  • Develop the database diagram
  • Database and tool development
  • Build a replicable system

Step 4: testing

  • Initial delivery of Cascarta
  • Conduct tester training workshop
  • Subsequent deliveries of Cascarta over three rounds of testing and feedback

Step 5: LAUNCH

  • Final round of testing
  • User training workshop
  • Go live!

This project also required extensive community engagement.

E & E collected data from a diverse group of stakeholders, including lifeline utilities operators, local government agencies, emergency response operators, school districts, volunteer organizations, and more. The data collection effort kicked off with a workshop to introduce stakeholders to the project and discuss how their data would be used and protected.

E & E employees gather input from community members on critical community assets during the Cascarta stakeholder workshop in Larimer County, Colorado.

Next, the E & E team scheduled one-on-one interviews to collect data from local utility providers identified by the County as the highest priority stakeholders. E & E also held a second workshop for the City of Loveland to answer questions about the project. Afterwards, the team reached out to the entire group of participants via phone and email to invite them to participate in the project, and provided an online survey to allow them to provide data at their convenience.

by the numbers

136

Stakeholders contacted

111

Workshop invitations sent

25

Workshop attendees

125 MB

Data collected

“Cascarta will help us at Larimer County OEM to do work that we previously have not been able to do. Previously, work with critical infrastructure partners was not well organized and did not have a cascading effects component. We now have the ability to look at how critical and social infrastructure fit into each other that better allows us to truly see the whole community impact [of a disaster].”

– Kohl Parrott, Larimer County Office of Emergency Management Coordinator
emergency planning tool
A user’s view of Cascarta, Ecology & Environment’s custom emergency planning tool.

Cascarta has allowed the Larimer County OEM to identify potential vulnerabilities, including public and private assets within mapped hazard areas and gaps between the recovery time objectives of upstream and downstream assets that may impact the operations of a downstream asset.

This emergency planning tool is designed to be replicated in any jurisdiction. It is available on Larimer County’s website as a free resource to community members in Colorado and beyond.

cascarta

Features include:

  • An intuitive, minimal user interface
  • Shared scenarios between users
  • The ability to input and update data throughout the website
  • Users can explore relationships between community assets
  • Analysis results can be easily exported to a spreadsheet for use in presentations or reports

Download the free version of Cascarta by clicking here.*

Want to learn more?

Contact Project Manager Jessica Forbes-Guerrero at 303-443-3282 or JForbes-Guerrero@ene.com.

*Link includes requirements and instructions for installing and running Cascarta.

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