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The term "protection", as defined in the National Preparedness Goal Capabilities, refers to those capabilities necessary to secure the homeland against acts of terrorism and manmade, or natural disasters. This section of the Homeland Security Enterprise (HSE) Geospatial Concept of Operations (GeoCONOPs) describes how the geospatial community supports the Protection mission. Content is this section of the GeoCONOPS complements relevant National Planning Frameworks and their associated Federal Interagency Operation Plans (FIOPs).

Geospatial functions play an important role in supporting the Protection mission. Geospatial decision-support facilitates shared situational understanding essential for whole community efforts to safeguard against acts of terrorism, natural disasters, and other threats or hazards through existing coordinating structures. These coordinating structures promote resilience and scalability, risk-informed culture, and shared responsibility needed for a unified national approach that is adaptable to a changing and increasingly volatile landscape.

Figure 1: Geospatial functions play an important role in supporting the Protection mission, facilitating shared situational understanding built from authoritative data that can be analyzed to characterize an incident, predict potential consequences, and support decisions.

Geospatial infrastructure, operators, and knowledge are critical components that cross all mission areas and operations. Examples of how geospatial technology supports the protection mission include:

  • Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which provide the ability to perform accurate location, tracking, orientation, timing, and measurements.
  • Reconnaissance and Remote Sensing, which includes collection and detection of ground and atmospheric conditions and imagery.
  • Modeling and visualization transform data into actionable information.
  • An ability to analyze, model, process, exploit, display, and share data and information required to support the mission.
  • Analysts with the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for effective use of geospatial capabilities to support decision making.

These geospatial capabilities support efforts to:

  • Protect against terrorism, WMD threats and enhance security
  • Secure and manage our ports and borders
  • Enforce and administer immigration laws while respecting human and civil rights
  • Secure the cyber environment and infrastructure while protecting privacy, civil rights, and other civil liberties
  • Protect agriculture and food as well as critical infrastructure and transportation

Protection partners have varying authorities, capacities, and resources that provide the basis for national Protection. Protection stakeholders can be grouped into the following categories:

  • Individuals, Families, and Communities – Individuals,
    families, and their communities have a shared responsibility to understand threats and hazards that may affect them and to take risk-informed protective actions in response to alerts.
  • Communities and Civil Society Organization – Communities,
    which may form independently of geographic boundaries, and unify around shared goals and values. Communities and community organizations are instrumental in developing and delivering Protection capabilities – playing an essential role in developing Protection plans, identifying solutions, and implementing those solutions to address protection challenges.
  • Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) – NGOs and faith-based organizations contribute to the
    Protection mission by serving as advocates, assistance providers to, or protection information sources for individuals, households, and the community.
  • Local Governments – Local governments share information with the private sector,
    infrastructure owners/operators, and other jurisdictional and regional entities. Additionally, local governments promote coordination of protection plans and efforts to build, sustain, and deliver Protection core capabilities.
  • State, Territory, Tribal, and Federal Governments – With a responsibility for implementing the
    Protection mission, protecting public welfare, and ensuring uninterrupted essential services and information – state, tribal, and insular area governments serve as a conduit for coordination between local governments and federal agencies. These governments serve as a critical coordination point between local governments and federal agencies. On behalf of the President, the Federal government provides leadership, coordination, and integration for developing and delivering Protection capabilities.
  • Private Sector and International Partners – Businesses, industry, private schools, universities,
    and owners/operators of the Nation’s infrastructure develop and implement risk-based protective programs and resilience strategies for infrastructure, information, and operations under their control. Owners/operators maintain and share situational awareness, act to build protection capabilities, and make investments in security and resilience essential to their daily operations and continuity of operations. Though protection activities are largely focused on domestic activities, protection capabilities are often globally connected. International partnerships are essential to developing and delivering Protection core capabilities. Protection efforts with international partners require coordination with the Department of State and, as appropriate, other government entities at the local, regional/municipal, state, tribal, territorial, insular are, or federal agencies.
  • Academics and Researchers – Academic partners conduct collaborative research to better
    understand threats and hazards along with their potential consequences and strategies to protect at-risk populations, property, the environment, and our critical infrastructure.

Who does Protection? The range of coordinating structures that contribute to the Protection mission includes operations centers; law enforcement task forces; critical infrastructure sector, government, and cross-sector coordinating councils; governance boards; regional consortiums; information-sharing mechanisms, such as state and major urban area fusion centers; health surveillance networks; and public-private partnership organizations at all levels. Authority for the Protection mission is established in local, regional/metropolitan, state, tribal, territorial, insular area, and federal laws, regulations, ordinances, and other directives with the force and effect of law. National policy directives and regulations direct federal agencies to conduct protection activities within and across several critical infrastructure sectors. Federal departments and agencies have a variety of responsibilities regarding protection. The Protection Federal Interagency Operations Plan (FIOP) provides detailed description of how the following organizations engage and contribute to the delivery of Protection core capabilities:

  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of State
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Treasury
  • Department of Energy
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • General Services Administration
  • Department of Interior
  • Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Geospatial Resources

Geospatial Capabilities

Geospatial Capabilities include specific technical tools, models, and applications useful in satisfying decision-support requirements within the Protection mission – before, during, and after an incident. Protection mission partners should make every effort to become familiar with geospatial tools during normal operations to reliably access and interpret information. Once an event occurs, those involved in disaster operations are likely to use only those tools with which they are already familiar – datasets, models, dashboards, and other geospatial tools are no different. The utility of geospatial tools depends on their use during normal operations and for exercises and training. Examples of geospatial capabilities that support the Protection mission are discussed below.

  1. Planning and Operational Coordination are essential to the Protection mission. Unified planning and operational coordination involve conducting a systematic process that engages the whole community, as appropriate, in developing actionable strategic, operational, and/or tactical-level approaches that promote shared situational understanding and supports achieving the National Preparedness Goal (Goal) of a secure and resilient Nation. A key element essential to achieving the Goal is establishing and maintaining event driven web mapping applications (dashboards, COPs, etc.) built from authoritative data that can be modeled to provide insight on actual or projected consequences from any threat or hazard that can inform protection activities. For example:

    Figure 2: Geospatial Information Infrastructure (GII) allows authorized users to create maps, share data, and view federal data including infrastructure

      1. The DHS Geospatial Information Infrastructure (GII) is a tool that allows users to create maps, upload and share data, and view loaded federal data and critical infrastructure.
      2. FEMA Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) is an integration of the nation's alert and warning infrastructure that provides public safety officials with an effective way to alert and warn the public about serious emergencies.
      3. The Situational Awareness Geospatial Enterprise (SAGE) is designed to distribute
        authorized users to create maps, share data, and view and empower USNORTHCOM mission partners with actionable geospatial data. SAGE is recognized as the de-facto unclassified Common Operating Picture (COP) enhancing situational awareness within DoD, but its use is not strictly relegated to Federal DoD users.
      4. The Common Assessment and Reporting Tool (CART) is the US Coast Guard (USCG) web-based application for tracking post-event status and recovery of the marine transportation systems following a disruption or interruption. CART reports extent of impacts on the marine transportation system and evaluates status of ports by comparing post-incident status to baseline data. Current status information is collected by system operators, who feed it into CART during an event.The USCG uses this information during events to track and report on the recovery status of ports and other marine transportation system components that have been disrupted by a disaster, such as a hurricane. It generates comprehensive summaries intended to be shared with chain of command, the interagency community (including the Department of Transportation), and port stakeholders.
      5. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) Enterprise GIS (eGIS) supports many Coast Guard Operations that protect the U.S. from a variety of threats and hazards including vessel tracking, oil spills, and port monitoring. eGIS provides access to a large variety of vector and raster data to those supporting the Protection mission.

    Figure 3: USGS eGIS supports a range of Coast Guard operations that protect the United States from a variety of threats and hazards, including vessel tracking along navigable waterways

  2. Modeling is an essential geospatial capability that supports many Prevention Mission core capabilities and associated critical tasks. Modeling combines historical or predicted information with current data (demographics, built environment, or similar), trends and other known factors to determine what and where an event may happen. There are several modeling elements supporting the mission:

    Figure 4: Interactive maps like GeoHEALTH provide situational awareness and incorporate a variety of data to facilitate planning, preparedness, and response.

    1. GeoHEALTH is the interactive mapping system and situational awareness viewer used by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). GeoHEALTH incorporates a variety of data to facilitate emergency management planning, pre-event preparedness, and response. The GeoHEALTH mapping application acts as a COP to enhance situational awareness by bringing in health data with other federal agency data allowing for community engagement when developing strategic approaches to meet the Protection mission. Available data include infrastructure locations, medical facility data, hazard imagery, and real-time HHS emergency management resource locations and information.GeoHEALTH contains information regarding medical facilities (e.g., hospitals, trauma centers, nursing homes, pharmacies), other specific types of infrastructure (e.g., Red Cross shelters, daycare centers, and grocery stores), and Census tract-level demographic data (e.g., poverty levels, languages spoken, and physical conditions). It also includes a geospatial resource database that allows emergency managers within HHS to track and manage HHS emergency response resources that have been deployed.
    2. Figure 5: HHS’ emPOWER Map portal helps identify affected populations including those who rely on electric dependent medical and assistive equipment

      The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) emPOWER Map is a public interactive map that provides the population in an area using electricity-dependent medical and assistive equipment. For example, during a hurricane that could cause electric power outages, emPOWER Map would be used to identify dependent populations in the forecasted hurricane track path. Additionally, during a pandemic or other biological hazard scenario, utility workers may not be able to work, which could impact power delivery to dependent populations in the impacted area.

    3. SimSuite is a web-based analysis tool, decision support application, and situational awareness viewer used internally by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). SimSuite geospatially enables functional and tactical capabilities to enhance situational awareness and improve the overall decision-making process. The SimSuite program facilitates access to technologies, modeling methodologies, geospatial data, business routines, workflows, and mission requirements. SimSuite is currently used most heavily for the modeling of commodity needs and debris removal requirements following natural disaster events. For flood hazard scenarios, SimSuite can also be used to analyze which residential and commercial structures are located inside or outside the 100-year floodplain. SimSuite incorporates data from over 1,000 sources, including real-time weather data from the National Weather Service (NWS), real-time gauge data from the US Geological Survey (USGS), and models from the USACE Hydrologic Engineering Center (HEC).
    4. The Quick Urban and Industrial Complex (QUIC) Dispersion Modeling System is a fast response urban dispersion model. Chemical, biological, and radiological agent dispersion can be computed on building to neighborhood scales in tens of seconds or minutes. For example, if a potential intentional biological attack is detected by the BioWatch system, QUIC may be used to provide outdoor event reconstruction. QUIC can also be fed with meteorological data to account for weather patterns, including simulations from weather models such as WRF, MM5, and HOTMAC. It includes a day/night CONUS population database from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) at 250-meter grid cell resolution.
    5. The Railroad Network Analysis System (R-NAS) models the flow of commodities over rail infrastructure in the continental US (including rail tracks, yards, and bridges). For the disruption of a given rail component, the model attempts to find alternate commodities delivery routes. R-NAS uses data from the Commodity Flow Survey as a baseline. The model has been used to examine commodity flow disruptions due to destruction of railroad assets, and it has also been used to study policy options concerning the movement of toxic chemicals by rail. Within about four hours after an event of any type, R-NAS may be used by the Department of Homeland Security National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center to model commodity flow disruptions.
GeoData and Products

GeoData and Products are crucial components needed for steady-state, escalated decision making, and enhanced protection operations before or during an incident in response to an elevated threat. Data, imagery, and analysts capable of putting it all together give context – often using location –to people, the built environment, terrain, weather, available support, potential civil and political considerations, or other factors that may inform protection efforts. For example, data helps the Protection community understand risks to people, the built environment, and critical infrastructure. Geospatial products help protection partners understand and explain where people and critical infrastructure are located, provide facts on historical events or insight on potential future consequences, and supply information on other factors that may drive the Protection mission. Many essential data elements support the Protection mission. Though not exhaustive, below are a few examples.

  1. Imagery is essential for understanding terrain, relationships with critical facilities, and potential consequences from a variety of threats or hazards. Listed below are examples of resources available for requesting, viewing, and downloading imagery:
    1. The Army Geospatial Center Products and Services provides access to imagery, maps, and vector data to support the Protection mission on the Unclassified, Secret, and Top Secret environments.
    2. Enhanced Web Hosting Service (EV-WHS) provides achieved and current global imagery.
    3. National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) – National imagery acquired annually.
    4. GEOINT Unclassified Tasking and Status (GUTS) is a resource for imagery collection, exploitation, production, and distribution.
    5. The DHS Geospatial Information Infrastructure (GII) allows users to view imagery with critical infrastructure data and other information in a secure setting with HSIN access required.
  2. Datasets provide the foundation for characterizing incidents and analyzing potential or actual consequences from any threat or hazard. Examples of common authoritative datasets are listed below.
    1. The Homeland Infrastructure Foundation Level Data (HIFLD) Open and Secure provide critical infrastructure data for geospatial analysts to use with over 500 resources in downloadable formats available.
    2. The National Levee Database provides information on where critical levees and dams exist.
    3. Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) Critical Infrastructure – A trusted network for homeland security operations allowing for the sharing of Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU) information.
    4. Figure 6: Census data provides information about populations in the context of location and demographics. This context is essential to developing strategies to protect those who may be affected by a threat or hazard.

      US Census Data provides a wide range of demographic data to help determine who may be affected and where at risk populations are located. Demographics and population trends are an important part of any geospatial analysis. Operators, decision-makers, and Senior Leaders need to understand where people live, work, and play and correlate demographic, sociological, and emerging or existing crime trends with potential vulnerabilities.

    5. Figure 7: Landscan can help refine analysis of potentially affected populations that can inform a range of protection activities.

      Landscan – Provides day time and night time population numbers that when considered in context with incident characteristics, can refine analysis on effects of a threat or hazard to the affected population and inform resource adjudication.

    6. Effective protection efforts require accurate and timely information that facilitates establishing shared situational awareness, understanding of risk along with associated consequences, and promotes unified protection activities for all-hazards. Discovering authoritative data and geospatial tools or other geospatial resources can be challenging. To address this challenge, the Emergency Support Function Leadership Group (ESFLG) Modeling and Data Working Group has developed an interactive inventory of datasets and models used by the federal interagency to inform operational decision making. The inventory, the ESFLG Model and Data Inventory (MoDI), is primarily intended for use during normal operations to identify datasets and models available to fulfill critical information requirements across all mission areas. Data and models used for day-to-day protection activities are far more likely to be used by operators or decision makers during a crisis.

Tradecraft includes access to training, operating procedures/guides, templates, and other resources. These resources are valuable in the Protection mission and provide guidance, use-cases that demonstrate successes or smart practices, training, and potential grant opportunities to support building, sustaining, and delivering geospatial capabilities. A list of tradecraft resources available is provided below:

    1. Grants and financial assistance can supply essential funding for staffing, training, data, software and infrastructure necessary to support the Protection mission. There are several ways of applying for grants and other financial agreements. The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) overs several types of funding programs. DHS also has a grant program that distributes funds to aid in prevention attacks and disasters.

    2. It is important to assess and understand an agency’s current geospatial abilities to determine geospatial strengths and weaknesses. The NAPSG Foundation’s CARAT Tool is designed to serve as a roadmap to understand an agency’s readiness to support geospatial functions and can teach how GIS can be applied to public safety.
    3. Training for analysts and those supporting the Protection mission is essential for protecting people, critical facilities, infrastructure, and other resources from threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk to the Nation.
      1. The FEMA Emergency Management Institute has courses to help prepare for the potential effects of all types of disaster and emergencies.
      2. The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS) serves as the national resource for cybersecurity training, education, and workforce development.
    4. Standard Operating Procedures may supply guidance and direction to analysts and decision makers on proper steps to take when supporting the Protection mission. The NAPSG Foundation’s Geospatial Standard Operating Guides (SOG) include templates and guidelines for coordinating geospatial emergency support efforts.
    5. Organization of human resources can play an important role as it is essential to understand who and where people are that can support the mission.
      1. FEMA’s Citizen Corps helps to coordinate volunteers’ activities to make communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to response to an emergency.
      2. The NSGIC Emergency Contact List is a regularly updated document containing contact information for geospatial professionals in Federal, state, and local agencies involved in supporting the HSE community.

Use-Case Scenarios

Significant National Level and Special Events
For significant national level and special events, agencies across all levels of government utilize geospatial information and technology to conduct crisis mitigation, security, and consequence management activities. This includes national or international events deemed significant by DHS. Previous events have included presidential inaugurations, presidential nominating conventions, major sporting events such as the Olympics, and major international meetings. In each of these events, geospatial information and technology are utilized to protect government officials, property, and the general public. Utilization of these critical tools include situational awareness capabilities, derived geospatial and analytical products, and geospatial data.Situational Awareness Capabilities

Depending the level of an event, agencies may establish an event driven web mapping appolication such as a dashboard or COP to enable real time incident tracking and monitoring fused with disparate pieces of geospatial information created across multiple agencies. In past events, the DHS Geospatial Information Infrastructure (GII) allowed for the download of authoritative data and products, as well as the archival of event data. The GII is a Secure but Unclassified (SBU) platform for geospatial visualization, analysis, and collaboration utilized by multiple users to provide real time situational awareness of potential security threats occurring around the special events. It is one example of a secure system being used to share data, tools, and products across multiple stakeholders supporting the Protection Mission. The Homeland Security Infrastructure Network (HSIN) is another tool that has played a part in protecting special events. HSIN has been used extensively throughout mission planning, rehearsal, and execution to centralize and secure access to geospatial data and products for sharing information with operational security entities. The enterprise capabilities serve as the information sharing backbone that can deliver a unified COP and Incident Monitor while improving work flow and collaboration.


In addition to web mapping, many products have been used for situational awareness. The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) has produced Event Map Books or other special products. NGA created the Presidential Inauguration GEOINT Special Analysis Product during the inauguration and has created products showing where protest and demonstration locations would be during special events.


Data services have been shared among the stakeholders supporting the Protection Mission for national level and special events using the GII and partner systems. Relying on services allows partners to receive live data feeds with no need for downloading or updating. Critical Infrastructure data have mostly come out of Homeland Infrastructure Foundation Level Data (HIFLD) with both HIFLD Open and HIFLD Secure data being utilized. In some events, daily briefings are conducted to discuss data requirements, the progress of data becoming available to stakeholders, and general concerns and needs for those involved. Participants in the briefs decide upon such issues as symbology options, coordinated, produced, and disseminated authoritative products, and access/distribution issues. An open dialog is always essential to the mission.

Users with HSIN accounts can access a Speical Security Event geospatial CONOPS at the Geospatial Center of Excellence under the Document Library.

District of Columbia (DC) Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA)
The DC HSEMA supports the Protection Mission as the lead agency for coordinating large special events within DC. The agency is responsible for obtaining and sharing data with stakeholders supporting the homeland security enterprise. HSEMA carries out a number of critical roles and responsibilities during large special events, as detailed below.

DC HSEMA’s Special Events Planning Office is a valuable coordinator and gate keeper of event information for the District and stays informed as new event data become available. The agency knows when data have received final approval and are ready to be released as well as who is approved to receive the data.

In preparation for a large event, the HSEMA GIS Coordinator will provide any relevant district data to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Geospatial Information Infrastructure (GII) and the DHS National Operations Center (NOC) Common Operating Picture (COP). In many cases, this will include event specific data such as the locations of medical tents, DC National Guard facilities or operations, open shelters, and other types of critical infrastructure.

The Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) data team also plays an important role in the Protection Mission as they are the main hub of GIS data for the City via its Open Data Portal. The group serves as the backup for the HSEMA GIS Coordinator in the HSEMA Emergency Operations Center (EOC). They are involved with other agencies’ GIS efforts and help to staff the MPD and FEMS EOCs during large events.

DC HSEMA is also responsible for displaying data feeds from the DHS NOC COP in the HSEMA EOC, where command and control of large events and disasters in the District happens. For large events, the EOC will have representatives from many federal and local partners including the DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), Capitol Police, Park Police, DC Fire and EMS Department (DC FEMS), DC Department of Transportation (DDOT), Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), Department of Public Works (DPW), Department of Health (DOH), National Weather Service (NWS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), DC National Guard, Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), Potomac Electric Power Company (Pepco), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DC Water, and the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO), among others.

HSEMA serves a coordination point between these local agencies and federal stakeholders supporting the Protection Mission during an event. For situations in which a local agency is not involved, or not available to play this lead role, HSEMA creates data and shares with the homeland security enterprise team.

Fusion Centers

Fusion Centers use geospatial technology to support the Protection mission. For example, the Alabama Fusion Center, Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), Illinois State Police Department, the Montana Analysis and Technical Information Center (MATIC) as well as DHS and state law enforcement partners conducted a joint operation during the 2016 Presidential Election. The group used the Geospatial Information Infrastructure (GII) for controlled access and two-way flow of mission critical geospatial information and derived products. Law enforcement events such as shootings, protests, suspicious activity, etc. were tracked and shared across the community.

Figure 8: A network of fusion centers extends to 50 states with 28 located in major urban areas

The Fusion Center is a dedicated element, run by applicable state or local jurisdictions, that exchanges information and intelligence, maximizes resources, streamlines operations, and improves the ability to prevent, protect, mitigate against, respond to, and recover from all threats by analyzing data from a variety of sources. They focus primarily on intelligence and fusion processes through which information is gathered, integrated, evaluated, analyzed, and disseminated. State and major urban area fusion centers provide analysis and information-sharing capabilities that support efforts of state and local law enforcement to prevent crime and terrorism. Fusion centers receive information from a variety of sources, including state and local leads as well as federal information and intelligence. By “fusing” information from a wide variety of disciplines to conduct analysis, fusion centers generate products that are timely and relevant to their customers’ needs. This allows state and local law enforcement to address immediate and emerging threat-related circumstances and events. It also supports risk-based, information-driven prevention, response, and consequence management. There are currently 78 National Fusion Centers—50 of which are state with 28 located in major urban areas. Fusion centers are designed to involve every level and discipline of government, private-sector entities, and the public—though the level of involvement of some participants will vary.

Figure 9: Fusion Centers use geospatial technology to support the Protection mission

Amistad Dam Scenario
This Amistad Dam scenario portrays a threat against an earthen dam, shared between the US and Mexico. Discussion is focused on US-based activities while additional efforts would be undertaken by the Mexican government. The scenario provides information on the joint roles, actions and collaboration of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE), National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), United States Secret Service (USSS), and the Texas Department of Public Safety. The full scenario can be found on the Geospatial Center of Excellence page (HSIN account required) under the GeoCONOPS folder within the Document Library section. Those who have access to the GII can look at an Amistad Dam Story Map for additional information.
Updated on October 29, 2019