David E. Steitz

Headquarters, Washington, DC

(Phone: 202/358-1730)

Michael Widomski

Federal Emergency Management Agency, Washington, DC

(Phone: 202/646-4337)

RELEASE: 00-192

NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today
signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and joined in
partnership on a major natural-disaster initiative.

It is affiliated with Project Impact: Building Disaster Resistant
Communities. The cooperative agreement will result in updated and
more accurate maps of flood plains, a better understanding of
wildfires, and maps to improve disaster recovery and mitigation by
state and local communities throughout the United States.

Under the new partnership arrangement signed by NASA Administrator
Daniel S. Goldin and FEMA Director James Lee Witt, NASA and FEMA
will apply science, technology and remote-sensing research images
of the Earth taken by satellites to emergency management issues on
the ground, such as mapping of flood plains and earthquake fault
lines and observation of wildfires and other natural hazards.

“This new partnership between NASA and FEMA demonstrates the
diverse and wide-ranging applications of NASA’s Earth science
research and technology and its benefit to the American people,”
said Dr. Ghassem Asrar, Associate Administrator for Earth
Sciences, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC. “The Office of Earth
Sciences is eager to form new partnerships with other government
agencies such as FEMA, as well as with industry and public groups
to expand America’s use of our Earth science data.”

“I am extremely happy to have NASA as a Project Impact partner,”
said FEMA Director James L. Witt. “Using the technologies by NASA
for disaster prevention will help in saving lives and make
communities all across America disaster resistant.”

The agreement outlines a first cooperative effort to map flood
plains in California’s Los Angeles basin; around Sacramento, CA;
Virginia Beach, VA; the Red River along the North Dakota and
Minnesota borders; and San Francisco, CA. Using laser-imaging and
radar-mapping data, NASA and FEMA are evaluating technology for
creating more accurate maps of these areas that will help state
and local officials model and understand drainage and run-off,
which are vital to their disaster preparedness. Local communities
will benefit from these precise maps by better understanding the
physical characteristics of their communities.

At the same time, NASA Earth scientists will gain valuable data
for technology development, validation and calibration of
satellites, and the understanding of land use, land cover and
flood hazards. America’s flood-insurance industry also will
benefit from the accuracy of these new maps, which will provide
more precise views of flood-threatened areas.

As the agreement is implemented, NASA researchers and their FEMA
colleagues will use a variety of public and private satellites and
aircraft-mounted Earth-observing instruments. These efforts will
help in understanding issues such as soil permeability and
saturation, which affect how much water during a flood would
likely be absorbed, as opposed to remaining above the ground and
possibly causing damage to crops, houses and communities.

Satellite imagery also can provide state and local officials with
maps of vegetation in areas prone to wildfires. This information
can be used by firefighters to determine which types of plants are
more likely to fuel wildfires and better predict what paths such
fires may take.

Using airplanes and spacecraft that observe characteristics of the
Earth invisible to the naked eye, researchers can better see
characteristics of the Earth’s surface that are changing and can
indicate where earthquake fault lines or volcanoes may be
expanding, vital data for understanding and preparing for these
dangerous phenomena.

The partnership between the space program and FEMA is part of
NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise, a coordinated research program
that studies the Earth’s land, oceans, ice, atmosphere and life as
a total system. This initiative is part of an aggressive new
strategy devoted to significantly increasing the application of
NASA remote sensing data, information, science and technologies to
societal needs, ensuring maximum return on taxpayer investments.

An image from today’s signing can be found at :