Monday, October 31, 2011

GIS as a High Tech Fire-Fighting Weapon

Wilson, North Carolina, Fire Chief Don Oliver has been known for many years in the fire-fighting community for his progressive thinking about the employment of new technologies.  Indeed, he was an early adopter of GIS and over the years has worked hard to build out that capability in the fire house as the technology has advanced.  ESRI and Fire Engineering recently highlighted those efforts in an online article.  Go here to read the article.

Comment: One of the stories Chief Oliver likes to tell to demonstrate the value of geospatial technologies involves the arrival of one of his crews at a site where a bomb disposal unit was getting ready to defuse a pipe bomb.  When the police officer in charge of the scene wandered back to ask the fire crew why they had parked so far away from the scene, the fire crew showed the police officer the radius of blast as calculated on their fire truck's Mobile Data Terminal.  The police then quickly pulled their cars back to where the fire trucks were parked.

It should not be a surprise to anyone reading this blog that Chief Oliver is also a big proponent of the U.S. National Grid.   

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Canadian Disaster Database

Thanks to Ron Wencl, U.S. Geological Survey liaison to Minnesota, for passing along this information on the recent addition of a geospatial interface to the Canadian Disaster Database:

"The Canadian Disaster Database (CDD) contains detailed disaster information on more than 900 natural, technological and conflict events (excluding war) that have happened since 1900 at home or abroad and that have directly affected Canadians.  The CDD tracks “significant disaster events” which conform to the Emergency Management Framework for Canada definition of a “disaster” and meet one or more of the following criteria:
■ 10 or more people killed
■ 100 or more people affected/injured/infected/evacuated or homeless
■ an appeal for national/international assistance
■ historical significance
■ significant damage/interruption of normal processes such that the community affected cannot recover on its own

The database describes where and when a disaster occurred, the number of injuries, evacuations, and fatalities, as well as a rough estimate of the costs.  As much as possible, the CDD contains primary data that is valid, current and supported by reliable and traceable sources, including federal institutions, provincial/territorial governments, non-governmental organizations and media sources.  Data is updated and reviewed on a semi-annual basis.

A geospatial mapping component has been added to the CDD, which enables users to define their search of the disaster database by using a spatially-defined area.  It also displays query results charted across a map.  Geospatial disaster data contained in the CDD can be exported through KML or GeoRSS feeds.  Data from both the Classic CDD and the Geospatial CDD can be downloaded into report formats."

To go the CDD main page, click here.  To go directly to the geospatial interface, click here.

Comment: Few are aware that until an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in WWII, the largest man-made explosion in history had occurred in Canada.  Use the interface to see if you can find out where this disaster took place.  Here's a hint: the blast was strong enough to throw a 1/2 ton ship anchor 2.35 miles!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Twin Cities GECCo Wrap Up

A picture is worth more than a 1,000 words.  So here you go:

Working against the clock, members of the "Fox Tribe" (group in foreground) discuss how they would use geospatial technologies during the Recovery Phase of the Twin Cities GECCo Table Top exercise.

Scott Bundy, Sr. Solutions Consultant for all GIS at Excel Energy (left center, red shirt), offers his insights about the Twin Cities electrical grid during Table Top discussions of the "Leopard Tribe".

During the Twin Cities GECCo's final event, GITA's Tablot Brooks (left) and Dave DiSera (right), presented overall findings to the 70 two-day GECCo participants/staff and 15 regional and state Decision Makers who had joined the group for a lunch time key note by Dr. Carl Reed and the Next Steps discussion.

In the near future, presentations, course materials, and other information from the event will be posted on the Twin Cities GECCo home page

And with that, the GECCo is off on a new adventure - heeding the advice of Hoarce Greeley - to "scurry West young GECCo, scurry West".  Destination: San Francisco's East Bay.........

Friday, October 28, 2011

The "Google for Police Officers" Goes Mobile

Government Technology has just published a brief but interesting piece on "Coplink", which it refers to as the "Google for Police Officers".  According to the article, some 4500 law enforcement agencies are currently using Coplink - a product that now incorporates iPhone, iPad and Android functionality.

Go here for the full story.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


As I walked through the front door this morning to go to work - what do I see run by but a:

To be in Minnesota this time of year....that's one BRAVE small tropical lizard!

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Trauma Center Map

The American Trauma Society has launched an online viewer that shows all areas of the United States within 60 minutes of a major trauma center (by ambulance or helo).  Consequently, this viewer could be a good general informational tool for local responders called into action in another part of the country.  In addition, it's probably worth pulling into a generic Common Operating Picture (COP) if for no other reason than the metadata that is also available from the application.  However, two cautions on use of this product:
  1. Data currently displayed will become suspect for a specific region that is hit by a disaster.  All bets are off on hosital availability information when the electrical grid goes down or water is in the operating room.
  2. Note the straight edges at the end of service areas.  It's a nit-pick point, but those sharp edges are more about the boundaries of Public Safety Answering Point regions than they are about the actual end of range from a trauma center for ground or airborne assets.  
Anyway, kudos go out to the American Trauma Society for geospatially sharing their expertise in this field with others!  Go here to check out their viewer.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hazus User Group (HUG) Conference Calls - Today, October 25, 2011

Not sure why they aren't giving more notice...anyway, here's the information as provide by FEMA:

HUG Leadership Call
  • This call will feature an open discussion on outreach and development between HUG leaders.
  • Open to all HUG Leaders
  • 1:30-2:30 PM Eastern Time
  • Conference Number: 1-570-720-0113, Passcode: 186250#

HUG Topic Specific Call
  • This call will feature an update from the Canada team to discuss their work.
  • Open to all Hazus Users
  • 3:00-4:00 PM Eastern Time
  • Conference Number: 1-570-720-0113, Passcode: 186250#

Monday, October 24, 2011

EMI Course Schedules Released: 1st and 2nd Semester 2012

As part of FEMA's National Preparedness Directorate, the function of the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) as described on its website is as follows:

"Through its courses and integrated programs, EMI serves as the national focal point for the development and delivery of emergency management training to enhance the capabilities of State, local, and Tribal government officials; volunteer organizations; FEMA’s disaster workforce; other Federal agencies; and the public and private sectors to minimize the impact of disasters and emergencies on the American public. EMI curricula are structured to meet the needs of this diverse audience with an emphasis on separate organizations working together in all-hazards emergencies to save lives and protect property. Particular emphasis is placed on governing doctrine such as the National Response Framework, National Incident Management System, and the National Preparedness Guidelines."

Training conducted at Emmitsburg, MD, is normally free - this includes all travel expenses to/from Emmitsburg, as well as lodging.  Students are only expected to pay personal costs and a nominal fee for meals.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

USGS Emergency Response Fact Sheet

This past summer, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a new fact sheet that is a compendium of the most popular online geospatial resources for the Emergency Services Sector.  The resources covered are typically appropriate for use during the recovery, mitigation and preparedness phases of the Emergency Management cycle, however some are also applicable to the response phase.  The following topics are covered:
  • Earthquakes,
  • Floods,
  • Hurricanes,
  • Landslides,
  • Tsunamis,
  • Volcanoes,
  • Wildfires,
  • Terrorist attacks, and 
  • Accidental oil spills.
Go here to get the fact sheet.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

MIT Development: The Ability to See Through Concrete Walls With Radar

This remote sensing development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has become a lead story in more than a few popular press and scientific periodicals.  Go here to read the story as offered by Telepresence Options.

Comment: Keep in mind as you read this and other related articles on this topic, that this technology is at the start of its development.  Over time, fuzzy dots will turn into outlines of the human form and the size of the enabling equipment will shrink substantially.  Furthermore, while the idea that drove creation of this technology was support of the Armed Forces during urban combat, with refinement this system could become a wonderful tool for supporting Urban Search and Rescue Teams in the collapsed structure environment - for example, determining where individuals are trapped (Haiti).

Friday, October 21, 2011

Europe Launches First Satellites of New GPS System

Skeptical about reliance on GPS as provided by the United States's constellation of satellites, the European Union has launched the first two satellites of its Galileo system.   Initial operational capability is expected in 2015.  The system promises to delivery better accuracy than its American counterpart.

From a BBC article about this development comes this interesting thought:

"Few people perhaps recognise the full extent of GPS usage today. Sat-nav is not just about drivers trying to find their way on unfamiliar roads - banks employ GPS time to stamp global financial transactions; and telecommunications and computer networks are synchronised on the "ticks" of the satellites' atomic clocks.

Indeed, Britain's Royal Academy of Engineering issued a report earlier in the year that said the UK economy had become dangerously over-reliant on satellite-navigation signals, and that too many applications had little or no back-up were these signals to go down."

To read the full article, go here.

Comment: The value of GPS might be best understood by considering which countries or regions have sought to join the GPS "space race".  In addition to the U.S. and Europe, Russia has recently brought back to life its Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS), Japan has begun deploying its Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), China has announced that it will take its COMPASS network from regional to global, and India has announced it will deploy the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS)Clearly, accurate understanding of geolocation, matters.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

German State Police In Hot Water for "Remote Sensing"

In an article published by the Washington Post over the weekend, the debate about appropriate use of electronic surveillance took a new twist - German State Police admitted they had been secretly using the video cameras of suspect's personal computers to remotely monitor their activities.  While on its face this approach may not seem like an issue aligned with traditional remote sensing, the reality is that much like highway traffic cameras, Google Street View, worldwide online overhead imagery now routinely approaching accuracy in inches, ground-based mobile LiDAR captures at one million data points per second, and many other elements of the Geospatial Revolution that essentially did not exist even ten years ago, the gap between various forms of visualization from afar is quickly closing.  With that compression, the distinction between segments of the geospatial community, end users, and various technologies is starting to blur. It's best that we start thinking about associated issues now, rather than later.

You can get a start on that one by reading the article: go here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Virginia Tech Begins Using GIS for Football Home Game Security

Here's the byline:

"BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 7, 2011 – A new Geographic Information Systems (GIS) application for event management was tested during the Virginia Tech Hokies home opener against Appalachian State, and after only minor tweaks and adjustments, the application is now being used at all home games at Lane Stadium."  To read more, go here.

Comment: It should not be lost on any of us that on April 16, 2007, Virginia Tech was the site of one of the most tragic school shootings in American history.  A read of that event strongly suggests a lack of situational awareness by response personnel.  Consequently, it is encouraging to see this institution embracing the capabilities of geospatial technologies as one of the solutions for that issue. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Twin Cities GECCo "Sells Out" in Just Over 72 Hours

In an amazing show of interest in the Geospatially Enabling Community Collaboration (GECCo) concept by the Twin Cities public service, infrastructure, emergency services and greater business communities, the publicly available tickets "sold out" in just over 72 hours after being released. 

Back-fill of cancellations will be managed from an event waiting list.  Event organizers are also considering slightly expanding the number of overall event tickets available for the GECCo.  So if you would like to attend, but did not register before all seats were distributed, please be sure to add your name to the waiting list at:

Overall event updates will be posted on the Twin Cities GECCo website at:

Questions can be directed 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The "Fallout" From Fukushima Continues

To read the article from the New York Times, click the hyperlink below:

WORLD   | October 15, 2011
Citizens' Testing Finds 20 Hot Spots Around Tokyo
Radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may have spread to places where Japan's government hasn't even thought to look.

Comment: This is the third article that has been posted to this blog that relates the short comings of Japan's efforts to appropriately use geospatial technology to track and predict the impact of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant incident on its population.  In the previous articles, it was noted that Japan's leadership early on had been geospatially tracking the impact of the incident, yet failed to inform its citizenry of potential hazards.

Friday, October 14, 2011

2011 Minnesota Government IT Symposium Registration is Now Open

Registration and program information for the 2011 MN Government IT Symposium is now available.  This event is the premier conference for Minnesota's public sector and longest running statewide IT event for governement in the United States.  Go here for more information.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Catch Us If You Can - In Chicago

In support of the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS Foundation, the EPC is headed south to Chicago.  EPC Chair Steve Swazee and Go Team Co-Chair Randy Knippel will be yipity-yapping about the U.S. National Grid and its importance at the Northern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy on Friday, October 14th, 1:00-3:00 PM.  Here's the agenda.  Catch us there if you can! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

California Allows Warrantless Searches of Cellphones

If you can get by the outrageous caricature of California Governor Jerry Brown's head, this article, and the associated links at the bottom of the page, offer some interesting history and insights on the Law Enforcement community's ability to search a suspect's cell phone at the time of an arrest.  These searches have included the locations of cell towers that had been used in the past.  Go here to read more.

Comment: One of the more interesting comments offered in this article was attributed to Orin Kerr, described as one of the Nation's leading 4th Admendment experts.  According to Kerr: "It is very difficult for courts to decide Fourth Amendment cases involving developing technologies like cellphones.”  By this comment, Mr. Kerr is supporting the idea that it is more appropriate for legislative bodies to decide how emerging technologies (like geospatial) should be governed.  Unfortunately, there are problems with that approach also.  Case in point: the mess in the New York state Legislature where a law has been under consideration that would make recording the location of an item of infrastructure with a GPS (like a fire hydrant) illegal unless the GPS operator was a licensed surveyor.  An approach such as this would have devasting impact on the Emergency Services Sector by limiting access to current infrastructure location information that is now routinely provided by public works and similar unlicensed communites.  Clearly, we need to start thinking about geospatial technology and its emerging uses in a holistic way if we are going to get a handle the challenges of the future.  Probably as good of place as any to start would be here:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Twin Cities GECCo Tickets Available Today!!


Tickets for the two-day Twin Cities GECCo Workshop (October 27th and 28th) are available starting today, Monday, October 10th, at 12:00 PM (Noon)

Here's the direct link to the ticket site:

Additional details:

This part of the two-day event is primarily geospatial practitioner focused – appropriate for public service, emergency response, and infrastructure professionals interested in information exchange across sectors (for emergency preparedness and response).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

DHS Releases an Update to Private Sector Resources Catalog 3.0

According to the Emergency Management and Response - Information Sharing and Analysis Center:

"Recently released as the second update to the original, the Private Sector Resources Catalog 3.0 (PDF, 1.1 Mb) was developed to facilitate private sector access to all Department of Homeland Security (DHS) resources. The document, which contains a comprehensive listing of DHS resources, aims to help private sector organizations deal with a plethora of homeland security issues. 

The Emergency Management and Response—Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC) determined that the 64-page catalog has over 400 entries covering tornado safety to critical infrastructure protection. It has been reorganized by categories, such as cybersecurity, immigration law, and preventing terrorist activities. 

Divided into 17 categories, the terrorism prevention section discusses topics such as bomb prevention, mass transit, land transportation, facility security, hazardous materials, and maritime security, among others. It further contains an index listing resources by type including, brochures, reports, exercises, training, and more, much of which may have information value to Emergency Services Sector departments and agencies."

Comment: This is a fabulous resource for anyone who wants to have overall understanding of the amazing range of efforts DHS has underway to fulfill its mission.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

FEMA Releases the National Disaster Framework

An interesting development from FEMA that will take some detailed reading before comment:

"The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released this week the National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) (PDF, 10.5 Mb). This document outlines how community recovery is supported and organized on a national level. It builds on scalable, flexible, and adaptable coordinating structures to align key roles and responsibilities, while linking local, state, tribal, and federal governments, the private sector, and voluntary faith-based and community organizations that perform vital tasks in recovery.   

Similar to the National Response Framework (PDF, 1.1 Mb), the NDRF identifies recovery support functions that have a designated federal coordinating agency to provide leadership, coordination, and oversight for state, tribal, and local communities in their recovery. The Emergency Management and Response—Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC) noted that FEMA considers the NDRF as guidance for developing measures of successful recovery based on the state and community’s recovery objectives, effective decision making and coordination, and also the integration of community recovery planning processes.

The NDRF is consistent with the vision set forth in the Presidential Policy Directive 8 (PPD-8), National Preparedness, which directs FEMA to work with interagency partners to publish a recovery framework. “The National Disaster Recovery Framework is a first step toward the PDD-8 objective to achieve a shared understanding and a common, integrated perspective across all mission areas—Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery—in order to achieve unity of effort and make the most effective use of the Nation’s limited resources.”  

Friday, October 7, 2011

GIS Technology at the Baltimore, Maryland, Fire Department

A recent ESRI News release, as offered on the Fire Engineering website, discusses how GIS technology has been employed by the Baltimore, Maryland, Fire Department.  Of particular note, the article relates how GIS is an effective tool for dealing with three interlocking issues currently impacting many fire departments across the country: staff reductions, station closures, and spending cuts.  Go here to read the article.

Comment: Thanks to Fire Figther Al Studt of Florida for sending in this article.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

On "Vacation" at the Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium Conference

No doubt one of the finest state geospatial conferences in the country - the MN GIS/LIS Consortium Conference happens every year at about this time - and the EPC will be there in force starting tomorrow.  Look for us in the booth jammed with FREE stuff.

As for you online only viewers - don't despair.  You can download everything we will have on display and more by stopping by our online version of the EPC booth.  Go here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

EPC Meeting Information Available Along Right Side Bar

As a reminder, EPC meeting information can be found along the right side bar.  Those links include information on:

1.)  The committee's next quarterly meeting: EPC's December 8, 2011 Meeting Information (the annual holiday party - brrrr), and

2.)  Power Points and the agenda from the EPC's most recent quarterly meeting:

In addition, the EPC's 2012 quarterly meeting dates, can be found here.

P.S.  It's easy to join the EPC - just use the "Join the EPC" link along the right side bar.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Video: CUSEC States and DHS Demonstrate "Virtual USA" during NLE2011

Thanks to Richard Butgereit, GISPFlorida Division of Emergency Management, for the lead on this on this excellent four-minute You Tube video. Here's the description:

"This video highlights a regional information sharing capabilities between the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC) Technology Working Group and the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate during the National Level Exercise 2011 (NLE2011). The CUSEC states used "Virtual USA", a national model for seamlessly integrating disparate information management applications. This model more effectively enables mulch-jurisdictional information sharing than previous efforts and tools.

CUSEC is a not-for-profit multi-state earthquake consortium focused on reducing deaths, injuries, and property damages from earthquakes in the central U.S. For more information on CUSEC, visit

Virtual USA is a an end-user driven and federally supported initiative focusing on cross-jurisdictional information sharing and collaboration among the homeland security and emergency management community. For more information on Virtual USA, visit"

Here's the video:

Comment: Yup, it's all about the ability to share geospatial data.  Can you say GECCo?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Here Comes the Green Thing - The Twin Cities GECCo!

Well, after 18 months of start and stop planning, GITA's Geospatially Enabling 
Community Collaboration (GECCo) workshop will finally arrive in the Twin Cities on October 27th and 28th.  There are three (3) separate events to the Twin Cities GECCo - and each event requires a ticket to attend (sorry - this limitation is due to funding constraints).  

Tickets are free and will be distributed on a first come, first serve basis after a limited number of special invites have had an opportunity to respond.

The three events, and associated ticket distribution methods are as follows:
  • GITA Presents: Dr. Carl Reed - Thursday, October 27th, 6:00 PM.  This will be a unique opportunity for Minnesota's geospatial community and other interested parties to hear first hand from one of the world's leading experts about the challenges and way forward for the many uses of geospatial information. See the post below for more information, or go here to obtain a ticket now.

  • Twin Cities GECCo Two Day Workshop: Thursday, October 27th, 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM; Friday, October 28th, 8:00 AM - 2:30 PM.  This workshop will include some of the best infrastructure and emergency response related geospatial training ever available in the Twin Cities.  Lunch will be provided both days.  First come, first serve tickets will become available starting at Noon on Monday, October 10th.  This ticket also covers the Executive Summary Event immediately below.  Use the GECCo event banner at the bottom of this post to get more information, or go here at Noon, Monday, October 10th to obtain a ticket.

  • Twin Cities GECCo Executive Summary Event: Friday, October 28th, 12:00 PM - 2:30 PM.  Lunch time keynote by Dr. Carl Reed on the rapid advancements in geospatial technology and what it means to industry and government decision makers.  To be followed by an Executive Summary Session that will highlight lessons learned from the preceding day-and-one-half GECCo workshop.  First come, first serve tickets will become available starting at Noon on Monday, October 17th.  Use the GECCo event banner at the bottom of this post to get more information, or go here at Noon, Monday, October 17th to obtain a ticket.

A detailed agenda will be released later this week on the TC GECCo website -accessible by clicking on the event banner below.

Hope to see you at one of the events!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dr. Carl Reed Presentation For Minnesota’s Geospatial Community

As an “add-on” event to the Geospatially Enabling Community Collaboration (GECCo) coming to the Twin Cities on October 27th and 28th, Dr. Carl Reed, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the Open Geospatial Consortium, will be providing a presentation for Minnesota’s Geospatial Community and other interested individuals.  This will be a unique opportunity to hear from the thought leader who oversees worldwide efforts to implement geospatial and location standards for an amazing range of applications:
  • Aviation
  • Build Environment and 3D
  • Business Intelligence
  • Defense and Intelligence
  • Emergency Response and Disaster Management
  • Geoscience and Environment
  • Government and Spatial Data Infrastructures
  • Mobile Internet and Location Services
  • Sensor Webs
  • University and Research

When: 6:00 PM, Thursday, October 27th

Ticket: You need one (Even if you have one for one of the other two (2) GECCo events).  Tickets are first come, first serve – go here to get a ticket

This is an event you won't want to miss!

As to the GECCo?  Details on how you can participate will be released here tomorrow!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

United Nations Humanitarian Response GIS

The latest issue of the online Directions Magazine has run an interesting piece on GIS use by the United Nations for humanitarian response.  Here’s the byline:

“Managing information during a humanitarian emergency is a crucial part of any relief operation. Geospatial information is central to the United Nations’ efforts, from early warning to emergency preparedness to emergency response. Craig Williams and John Marinos, both with the UN OCHA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, describe the people and resources needed to manage in a crisis.”

Go here to read more.

Minnesota Symposium on Terrorism and Emergency Preparedness (MSTEP) Conference

Dates and location have been announced for the annual Minnesota Symposium on Terrorism and Emergency Preparedness (MSTEP) conference:

When: November 15 and 16
Where: Northland Inn and Conference Center, Brooklyn Park, MN

For the event brochure, go here.