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Technical Information about ERMA

The Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA®) enables a user to quickly and securely upload, manipulate, export, and display both static and real-time geographic data sets.

This allows for high-impact and fine-resolution visualization of data for solving complex environmental response and resource issues.

ERMA User Guide: Learn how to use ERMA by downloading the basic user guide. [PDF, 5.94 MB]

ERMA is designed to:

  • Aid in spill preparedness and planning.
  • Assist in coordinating emergency response efforts and situational awareness for human and natural disasters.
  • Help define the extent of potential environmental impacts, supporting the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process.
  • Support ecological recovery and restoration efforts.
  • Provide access to this information from anywhere you have an internet connection.
  • Visualize data from a variety of sources, with the ability to include additional media such as photos and links to scientific reports.
  • Tell a story or reconstruct the history of an event using animated layers of information.

The application has been customized with specific data for 10 ERMA sites covering the United States and its territories. ERMA sites have secure-access accounts; however, publicly available environmental and baseline data are openly accessible for all regions.

An Open-Source Application

ERMA Architecture.

This diagram represents ERMA behind the scenes. Blue boxes represent open-source software. White boxes represent authoritative data sources which feed data to ERMA.

The application is based on open-source software (PostgreSQL/PostGIS, MapServer, and OpenLayers) that meet Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) specifications and standards used across federal and international geospatial standards communities. This ensures ERMA is compatible with other commercial and open-source Geographic Information System (GIS) applications that can readily incorporate data from online data projects and avoids licensing costs. Open-source compatibility supports data sharing, leverages existing data projects, reduces ERMA’s maintenance costs, and ensures system flexibility as the technology advances.

ERMA is faster and easier to use than some proprietary GIS tools, and because it is open source, it can easily be customized to meet individual requirements. ERMA allows users to download data sets of interest and incorporate them into desktop GIS, Google Earth, or into partner GIS internet mapping sites.

ERMA provides non-GIS users with the ability to quickly interact with and analyze information. For example, you can draw a polygon on the map to communicate a proposed fisheries closure area or a restoration project, and this information is then instantly available to other users. ERMA was designed to draw upon and aggregate existing data to facilitate their interpretation and to display risk scenarios.

Users can draw shapes to select areas (and data) on a map, which they can combine with other spatial data sets and then produce a summary report. ERMA also allows you to measure distance, draw a perimeter to calculate the area of a selected polygon, save certain views on a map, animate data layers, and label points of interest when printing customized maps.

ERMA has a multi-level security structure. Most people can see all publicly available data layers without having to login, but only authorized users can access, for example, certain sensitive information during a spill or for climate change analysis. Views (specific data displays) can also be tailored for particular groups such as responders, restoration specialists, or legislators.

More Information about ERMA

ERMA Overview: Find out more information about the ERMA software program and regional ERMA sites.

Video Introduction to ERMA: Watch a video giving a brief overview of ERMA and an explanation of the basic features and capabilities within this online environmental mapping tool.

Standard ERMA Citation:

Environmental Response Management Application. Web application. Region.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2014. Web.
Date of access.>

Example of How to Use in a Bibliography:

Environmental Response Management Application. Web application. Arctic.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2014. Web.
19 Dec. 2013.>


Questions: Contact us with your questions, comments, or suggestions for ERMA.