Gearing up to use RAPT for crisis messaging

Eric Singer

RAPT is a free tool for public information officers to use in a crisis and can be helpful in a variety of ways. The acronym stands for Resilience Analysis and Planning Tool. This online platform helps information officers create custom maps or images that they can use in their social media messaging to inform the public about an emergency. Ultimately, it helps PIOs to clearly relay vital, easy-to-understand messages to the community. I spoke with Carmella Burdi on the PAST, Fusion Cell News Line about its importance. Burdi is a Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, analyst with Argonne National Laboratory. What is GIS? Burdi explains: “GIS is a computer system that is designed to capture and analyze spatial or geographic data in two-dimensional or three-dimensional structures. GIS allows us to visualize and analyze the world around us in a form of maps and globes, reports and graphics.”

RAPT is a web-mapping application that Argonne National Laboratory developed in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Integration Center. Burdi says: “It was designed to help emergency managers better understand their communities and who they are trying to serve.” Previous RAPT versions collected data at the county level: “We might look at indicators in your area’s population over the age of 65 and what percent that is, or the population in your community that doesn’t have health insurance access. Now RAPT lets us see all these indicators at the census tract level. In urban areas this really allows us to see the makeup of neighborhoods and smaller towns at a much more zoomed-in view.” Because RAPT includes infrastructure data like hospital and school locations, and historical hazards on top of that community data, it means RAPT is a unique way to visualize what is going on in communities and how resilient a community might be in the face of an emergency.

For public information officers, RAPT can help them target their messaging to specific population groups, like those who don’t speak English as their primary language, or if an evacuation is ordered, they can target their messages to residents who rely on public transportation to give them enough time to leave the area or otherwise shelter. While at first-glance the system may seem like it’s difficult to master, Burdi believes PIOs can pick up the use of RAPT quite quickly: “Within 10 minutes they would come up with two or three unique things to do with this to help them aid in their public aid and outreach. Nowadays we have explored Google Earth Bing Maps or online maps. RAPT is just a scaled-up version. There is a really great user guide on the main page to highlight the best functionality of RAPT, and with a little bit of time anyone can be a power user.”

Carmella Burdi is a GIS analyst with Argonne National Laboratory, in the National Preparedness Analytics Center. Thanks for reading this story. Click on the MP3 link below to hear my full interview with Burdi. And be sure to check out RAPT and add it to your tool-box today.

Flash Briefing – May 5, 2020