The Eaton County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Services successfully activated its on-line self-reporting tool for the first time during the recent windstorm for the public to report damage, according to a sheriff's office news release.
Residents entered property damage from the storm to be viewed by emergency management on the county’s GIS mapping applications as soon as it is entered, allowing much faster understanding of the extent of losses.
More than 11,700 people were reached simply by posting the link to the program on the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. For future events, the web page link will again be posted on-line on the sheriff’s web site, Facebook page and to local media partners, the release said.
The information is verified by reviewing the homeowner’s uploaded photos or site visits by Emergency Services Program Manager Sgt. Brown. The number of reports, degree of damage and damage amount estimate of losses is then forwarded to the Emergency Management/Homeland Security Division (EMHSD) of the Michigan State Police.
Personal information, names, phone numbers, and so on, is not included in the forwarded report.
There were some minor implementation issues the first time the program was used, but overall, Sheriff Tom Reich said he is, "very satisfied with how it performed." //
In the type of damage typical from a wind storm, a basic homeowners policy covers the majority of losses. The EMHSD looks closely at losses not typically covered by the homeowner’s insurance and if the damage makes the primary residence uninhabitable.
The on-line tool helps get this information to EMHSD sooner, which can speed up emergency disaster relief, the release continued.
Damage is rated using strict criteria set by the EMHSD and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Historically, damage assessment by Emergency Services is very labor and time intensive; assessors conducted drive-by surveys, which did not include damage not visible from the road. With the technology, much more comprehensive reports are available with fewer hours in the field.
Eaton County received about seventy reports of damage via the on-line reporting tool. Sixty-five of the reports reviewed were found to be at the “affected” level, which is the lowest. These may include loss of shingles, siding, or damage to structures other than the primary residence. Five damage reports were rated higher, mostly due to trees falling on houses.
Had the storm caused more severe damage, the information would be the first step toward possibly obtaining state of federal disaster relief. While any property damage is very disruptive to daily lives, the loss of the primary residence is what emergency management is most concerned about. The program was recently developed by the county’s technology department GIS Specialist.