The U.S. Census Bureau and the Miami-Dade County Office of Emergency Management today held a joint forum to discuss the ways in which timely data about the population can play a critical role in emergency preparedness and recovery efforts.
“After last year’s devastating hurricanes, communities are asking what they can do to be prepared,” said Census Bureau Director Louis Kincannon in Miami. “Using census data, community leaders can better anticipate and prepare for the needs of their residents in the face of a disaster. For example, they can plan for transportation during an evacuation, in what languages information will need to be disseminated and where to provide disabled access to shelters.”
In August, the Census Bureau will release 2005 data from the new American Community Survey (ACS), designed to provide timely, updated information every year. This year, for the first time, ACS data will be available for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, every Congressional district and all counties and places with populations of 65,000 or more. Prior to the ACS, new data was only available every 10 years from the census long form. The survey provides wide-ranging local information critical to emergency planners, such as households without an automobile, type of housing, people over the age of 65 and those living in poverty.
Following Hurricane Wilma last year, the Census Bureau compiled a wide range of data for South Florida. These data quantified the number and characteristics of business establishments in select geographies, thereby assisting in efforts to assess the economic impact of the storm.
“Firefighters and police officers are generally the first to arrive at any disaster scene. It is imperative they have an accurate assessment of the affected population readily available to ensure the adoption of an effective incident action plan,” said Robert Palestrant, acting director of the Miami-Dade Office of Emergency Management.
Participants at the Miami forum included the American Red Cross of Greater Miami and the Keys, the Alliance for Aging, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Catholic Charities of Miami and United Way of Miami.
The forum was the fourth in a series held by the Census Bureau in an effort to assist local leaders prepare for disasters. Forums have also been held in New York, Los Angeles and Honolulu.
For more information about these forums, or on the data the U.S. Census Bureau provides, please visit our web site at <www.census.gov>.