Edited Version of March 11, 1998 Transcript
EIIP Virtual Classroom Online Presentation

"Using ArcExplorer to Display FEMA Q3 Flood Data"

Special Presentation
Amy Sebring
City of Corpus Christi Emergency Management Office

EIIP Virtual Library Online Moderator - Avagene Moore

The original transcript of the March 11, 1998 online Virtual Classroom presentation is available on the EIIP Virtual Forum (http://www.emforum.org). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each were deleted but content of discussion, questions, and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers from the presenter to questions by the audience are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


Amy Sebring: I am pleased to welcome you to an experiment in the Virtual Classroom.

We are trying to find out if this medium can be used to actually provide instruction, and you all (as we say down here in Texas) get to be our guinea pigs.

Let me do a couple of disclaimers right at the start. I am NOT a GIS expert, nor am I floodplain manager. I am however, very interested in the potential of GIS for general emergency management purposes.

I am also interested in how this technology may be brought to the local emergency manager in a very economic way. What I will demonstrate today can be done more effectively with a licensed copy of ArcView I expect...

however, that will cost you about 2,000 dollars. That is still pretty steep. Another low-cost option for GIS is the LandView/MarPlot approach. I just discovered yesterday that RTKNet is making LandView III, and county data available for FREE download.

There is a link from our Technology Arena, Pre/Post Event Data Sources page for that resource. However, MarPlot still seems pretty limited in the number of formats it can handle, although it is supposed to import ArcInfo ungenerate format.

The ArcExplorer solution is still not ideal, however ESRI is supposed to be releasing an upgrade "soon" as well as an ArcExplorer Internet server. I am hoping that future releases will permit even more flexibility as to data sources.

My last disclaimer is that I am not even extremely proficient with ArcInfo/ArcView as we use MapInfo in our office. All that being said, I will give it a shot.

Please note that we will be posting a transcript of that session, so you do not need to copy down the URL's that I will be using. I will provide an html version of the transcript with the links embedded.

For starter's let's take a look at a page that ESRI has recently posted about using FEMA Q3 data with ArcView. Go ahead and click on the following URL, and position and size your browser window as needed. This may be useful for future reference.


Here are the system requirements for what we are going to demonstrate today:

1. Workstation with Windows 95. If you have Windows 3.11, then you may wish to investigate the ArcView 1.0 option available (free) from USGS. I have not tested ArcView 1.0 since it will NOT run on Windows 95.

2. Copy of ArcExplorer (free download).

3. FEMA Q3 Data (CD ROM furnished by FEMA).

4. Import utility (free download).

5. Other data such as street layer (free? download).

First, let's get the ArcExplorer program which is available for free download from ...


The downloaded file is over 6 meg so it will take awhile, depending on the speed of your system. Decompress the downloaded file by running the self extracting archive file and follow instructions to install.

You have an option during installation to do a typical or custom installation. ArcExplorer may also be used as an Internet client, and although there is not much data available yet via Internet...

it is probably a good idea to install with the Internet option; otherwise if you need in the future, you will have to repeat the entire download and install process.

Let's take a look at a screen shot of the ArcExplorer window and the menu options briefly.


The File menu option is used to open/close/save/print an ArcExplorer View which is an ArcExplorer Project file (*.aep). Once we have imported our data we will save it as a View, which can be opened directly from then on.

The Edit option presents a number of formats to which the selected objects may be copied, either to the windows clipboard or to a file.

The View option is used to set various display preferences.

The Theme option is used to add/remove/zoom data layers or themes and set theme properties.

The Tools option presents the zoom in/zoom out tools, pan, identify, find, and query tools that are also displayed on the button bar.

The Help option is as per usual.

Next, we need our FEMA Q3 data. There is a very good chance that you or your floodplain manager has the FEMA Q3 CD ROM. In our region at least, FEMA mailed out the disks last month.

Data is provided in 3 formats per county on the disk, ArcInfo export format, MapInfo format, and *.dlg. The DLG files do not contain as much useful data and are not recommended. Files are named by county FIPS code. An index is provided on the disk.

Today, we are going to use sample data for Liberty County, Texas, which floods a LOT! This data and other Q3 information is available from the FEMA Q3 webpage at:


The actual demo data that is available may be found at:


and the file we are using is named c48291.e00 which represents the state and county FIPS codes and the ArcInfo export file format.

The next item we need is an import utility. ArcExplorer does NOT include the capability, unfortunately, to import .e00 files directly. This has received several comments on the ESRI site.

I am hopeful that ESRI will include this import capability in its next release. Also, if someone in your organization does own ArcView, they may be willing to do the conversion for you.

In the meantime, we can use a publicly available conversion utility, with the following caution:

this import utility is not up-to-date, and you will get some error messages while running. I have not found any significant impact of the errors, but there may be some.

Please also note: FEMA cautions that if a property is close to a Special Flood Hazard Area boundary, you should verify actual location. The boundaries included on the maps, should be considered as reasonable approximations.

OK, so let's go get the import utility at:


Sometimes this server is hard to access. (Note that you can obtain ArcView 1 from this same page currently), but if you scroll down the page, you will see a link to Import, and the actual filename is conver.exe.

Download and run the self-extracting archive. An import.txt file with instructions will be included and the extracted program file is import.exe.

Assuming that the import.exe file and the c48291.e00 file are both located in C:\ARC you can execute the conversion as follows:

Select the Start button, Run, then enter c:\arc\import.exe c48291 liberty

After executing in a DOS window, a LIBERTY subdirectory will be created under the ARC directory with several files.

The next step is to start ArcExplorer, (ArcExplorer.exe), and from the Themes menu option, select add theme. A directory browser will be displayed.

The Arc Explorer file type displayed should be ARC/INFO Coverages. After selecting the LIBERTY directory, a file named PAT.DBF should be the only file displayed. Select and click on Add Theme button.

The theme name LIBERTY.PAT will be displayed on the Local tab of ArcExplorer with an empty checkbox. Check the box to display the map view. It will appear something like this:


A little more processing is needed at this point. Double click on the theme name to display the Theme Properties window. Select Unique Values, select the field name Symbol, and adjust the colors as desired by double clicking on the color boxes displayed.

I have selected as follows:

Symbol 0 represents undesignated areas = white

Symbol 3 represents Zone A = red

Symbol 11 represents Zone X500 = lime

Symbol 12 represents Zone X = gray

Symbol 18 represents floodway = blue

Here is the Theme Properties window with these choices:


When applied, here is the resulting map shading:


The map can be zoomed to the full extent of the window, and as large as desired. Using the identify tool, you can cross-reference an area to FIRM panel, and display the other attributes.


Another setup you may wish to use is based on whether an area is IN or OUT of the SFHA. For Theme Attributes, select SFHA as the field, and shade IN and OUT areas as desired. For example:


Now, we do not have time to go much further today, however, the Q3 data would obviously be even more useful if you can add a theme for streets and roads.

I had planned to attempt this using USGS data files, also downloaded from the Internet, however, all the ftp servers I needed were down yesterday!

The final step would be to save your view as an ArcExplorer project file, using the File menu option. Subsequently, you would open and manipulate the project file.

Let me close by saying, there is a Q3 Flood Data Users Guide available, via Internet, or from the CD ROM which provides good background information, and further details about the data. The URL for the guide is:


and text, WordPerfect, and PostScript file formats are provided.

I think I will wrap it up there. Remembering my disclaimers from the beginning, I would be happy to try to answer questions about the techniques I have shown today.

I would also be interested in getting your comments regarding this experiment; that is, do you feel this was a successful application of this technology, in terms of using the chat area for a demonstration?


Avagene Moore: Amy, I thought this was very effective -- you did a great job.

Daisha Wescott: Very well done, Amy

Lois McCoy: Amy! I stand in awe of your work! Great demo. How do I download or where???

Amy Sebring: I will post the transcript with all the links with the background info in a couple of days and the address will be http: //www.emforum.org/vclass/980311.htm

Gash 2: Do you know what ERSI's plans are to have a web/java based GIS as not to be dependent on WIN90/NT?

Amy Sebring: I am not sure what their plans are for ArcExplorer ... they are being somewhat vague!

Cindy Rice: Amy, I found it very useful and would like to be included on the list for any future demonstrations of ANY TYPE of useful public data and software.

Amy Sebring: Thank you Cindy.

Tim Murphy: Amy, the demo was great...especially considering technical nature of content!

Amy Sebring: I think there is real potential for widespread use of GIS by the EM community in the future, especially if it can be used at very low cost and the interface can be kept reasonably simple. The ultimate would be to have an Internet server and use ArcExplorer or similar as a client to query and display query results.

Avagene Moore: Amy, how much time did you spend on mastering this particular technology? Would it be difficult for the average person?

Amy Sebring: I have had some experience with GIS using MapInfo and also have some database experience but I think we have conveyed most of the essentials today in 30 minutes!

Burrell Montz: Participants might be interested in knowing that Susan Cuter at the Hazards Research Center, University of South Carolina, has developed GIS based multi-hazards analysis for a county in South Carolina.

Amy Sebring: We are also having Philip Schneider with us on March 25. He will be telling us about the further development of HAZUS.

Avagene Moore: This transcript will be an excellent guide for anyone wanting to try and learn this.

Amy Sebring: Well, I think one of the things I learned today is I could have easily done another 20 minutes! I also think that when trying to give a class like this, using this technology it should probably be unmoderated so participants can request clarification if needed as we go along.

Amy Sebring: I am looking for a way to collect data in the field that can be uploaded easily into the GIS. I have not yet found a way to make ArcExplorer use data presented in tabular form that is, import from a spreadsheet or other database. Again, perhaps they will include in a future release or someone will come up with another conversion utility!

Leon Shaifer: How soon will the transcript be available for downloading?

Amy Sebring: I should have the transcript up this weekend Leon.

Cindy Rice: Amy, we are in the process of getting HAZUS up and going here at KY DES and would like more info.

Amy Sebring: Join us on the 25th Cindy and you will be able to ask the author!

Cindy Rice: Amy, ArcView can import data from a database and then it could be available for users other than the ArcView user, right.?.

Amy Sebring: That is correct to my understanding; if you have ArcView 3.0 available, by all means use it.

Amy Sebring: This morning I was thinking of contacting some of our acquaintances in the insurance industry to see what type of technology they are thinking of using in a catastrophic situation for claims adjustment. Combined with GPS, this should work well for damage assessment. We are looking for a convenient way to do this locally.

Cindy Rice: Amy, some of the insurance companies are already trying to set something like that up here in Kentucky, especially since the Great Flood of '97 in KY, and were talking of using existing data from FEMA, state baselines and any other public sources to help recover from a disaster.

Amy Sebring: Cindy, I think it would be way more efficient if we could pool data.

Amy Sebring: I have also been sent info about some other potential GIS applications. If you will bear with me, I will type the links.

http: //www.manifold.net/explore/manifold_spec_sheet.html

This is a GIS analysis tool that sells for $65. However, it appears to rely on working together with Microsoft Access so that would put the price back up in the $400 range I would guess. (Note: subsequently corrected; Access is not required.)

The other one is:

http: //www.zdnet.com/adverts/eprints/caliper/pcmg/80126bs.html

This is a product review article, price is about $400. The last product I just put up (whose name I forget) apparently includes quite a bit of data in the purchase price.

Avagene Moore: Mapitude 4.0, Amy (if I spelled it correctly.)

Amy Sebring: Thank you Ava. Avagene, let's go ahead and tell our audience about our upcoming events if there are no more questions.

(Description of April events provided which may be found at April 1998 events page.)

Amy Sebring: Before we adjourn back to the Virtual Forum room, I would like to thank all our guests for serving as our guinea pigs today! Thank you so much. If we are ready, let's go back on over to Virtual Forum room.

Avagene Moore: On behalf of our audience, thank you Amy!!!