Sharing Data to Improve Disaster Response and Recovery Programs

data1Since 2013, our Government Data Sharing Community of Practice has hosted a series of public discussions on challenges and opportunities related to sharing data in government. Read on for the findings of our latest forum on how government can use data to improve responses to natural disasters.

4 Ways Data Can Improve Disaster Response

Panelists from the White House’s Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative, Department of Defense, Department of Housing and Urban Development, the MITRE Corporation, Center for Organizational Excellence, Office of Personnel Management, and GAO discussed 4 ways in which sharing data could improve disaster response and recovery:

  1. establish and maintain situational awareness to facilitate effective responses;
  2. coordinate the use of available resources and avoid duplicative efforts;
  3. identify and prevent fraud, waste, and abuse of recovery assistance programs; and
  4. monitor the outcomes of disaster response and recovery programs.

The White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative has established a catalogue of publicly accessible databases that could be used in disaster response and recovery activities.

How to Make Data Available and Useful During a Disaster

Panelists discussed key challenges to sharing data in disaster response programs—and ways to address those challenges. Specifically, federal, state, and local governments should

  • establish data sharing policies so that, during a disaster response, stakeholders already know how to share data, and they get it from each other in useful formats. This will require technology experts and policymakers with expertise in data sharing, disaster response, and recovery efforts;
  • routinely verify the accuracy of data to ensure it’s useful in the event of an emergency; and
  • include data sharing and analysis as part of emergency response exercises.

Finding Data-Savvy Feds

In addition, the panelists discussed how the government can find people with the right skills to respond to disasters. Options included

  • using the federal government’s Enterprise Human Resource Integration database to identify federal employees with the skills needed to support specific disaster response activities;
  • implementing the Office of Personnel Management’s pilot of workforce agility platforms that facilitates ad-hoc projects that could support disaster response programs; and
  • expanding and integrating existing federal human capital databases to identify and leverage staff to support disaster response programs.

To learn more about the series and sharing data in government, check out the minutes from the forum.


  • Questions on the content of this post? Contact Steve Lord at lords@gao.gov.
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