Innovative tool for assessment and reporting developed by FHWA helps public agencies recover quickly from natural disasters, with demonstrated cost savings of $1.2 million per disaster.
The Mobile Solution for Assessment and Reporting (MSAR) application replaces time-consuming paper surveys and inspection reports on disaster damage required for FHWA Emergency Relief Programs.
Made Public Date
01/27/2020

724

Houston
Texas
United States

199

Nationwide
United States
Identifier
2020-01434
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Help is Only a Click Away - Innovative App Developed by FHWA helps States Recover Quickly After Natural Disasters

Summary Information

When natural disasters strike, efforts to get roads and bridges open to traffic again, especially when the damage is widespread and difficult to access, are critical. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) developed an app to replace detailed, time-consuming paper surveys and inspection reports on the damage required under the agency’s Emergency Relief (ER) and Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Roads (ERFO) programs.

Traditional survey and inspection reporting requires cumbersome paper forms and maps, tedious spreadsheets, and the use and storage of paper maps, cameras, and other outdated tools – including tiresome data entry. FHWA's "Mobile Solution for Assessment and Reporting" (MSAR) app, available for download from the Apple app store system makes the process much easier – and faster – for trained professionals. It allows photos of the damage to be easily pinpointed on a map, often with estimated locations and identified by an inventory number. The estimates, photos or videos, and location maps are later compiled by state offices to be sent to FHWA emergency relief coordinators. The data is verified and, if need be, updated and sent via email back and forth. While still a complex data gathering effort, MSAR makes it much faster and more cost-effective.

MSAR was successfully piloted in 2016 but it was not until Hurricane Harvey in Texas that its real benefits were realized. Immediately after the water receded, FHWA's Texas division office, the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), and local public agency engineers used MSAR to make damage assessments.

FINDINGS
  • The MSAR system allows State and local agencies to gather data in the field by downloading the app to a cell phone or tablet, making the process faster and easier. A process that once took about 18 hours was shortened on average to just 20 minutes, resulting in savings of $1.2 million per disaster.
  • When the TxDOT used the app after Hurricane Harvey in 2017, FHWA and TXDOT saved an estimated 17,000 hours of staff time.
Goal Areas