Monday, April 30, 2012

Wildland Fire Incident Staff Rides

The Emergency Management and Response Information Sharing and Analysis Center InfoGram for April 25, 2012, featured a report on Wildland Fire Incident Staff Rides. These "Staff Rides" use a concept developed by the military where junior officers are taken to locations of important battles and then given the opportunity to visualize events by walking the terrain with a map and timeline.  This  approach to learning provides future military leaders with enhanced situational awareness so they can better understand the tactics employed and thinking of commanders involved.

Although the Wildland Fire Incident Staff Rides use a virtual approach to deliver this same type of training for incidents where life and death was in the balance, the 14 packages in the program are extensively documented and designed to help students see beyond finding fault and instead, "examine the deeper questions of leadership and decision-making."  A blend of maps, interviews, and audiovisual materials are used to relate circumstances of  each case study (Staff Ride).  To learn more, use the link below to access the Staff Rides:

Comment: It's darn near impossible to effectively communicate a story of response, whether it is in the ranks of the last responders (military) or in the ranks of the first responders (in this case wildland firefighters), without a map.  Consequently, the first item displayed in any one of the Staff Rides is.......a map.

Lead Photo Credit: National Geographic 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Freaky Friday: Seeing Through Walls With Your Cellphone

It's Friday - and things are freaky.  A little over a week ago, the University of Texas announced one of its research teams had figured out how to build a smartphone so that a user could have X-ray vision.  The implications of the core technology and where it could go in the future are far reaching - with potential applications ranging from the medical profession to urban search and rescue in collapsed structures.  To learn more, use the link below to read the news release from the University of Texas:

Comment: Mark Twain once said: “Why shouldn't truth be stranger than fiction? Fiction, after all, has to make sense.”  If someone had told me when I graduated from high school in 1972 that I would live long enough to see driverless cars with built-in TV sets, autonomous earth mapping drones, and hand-held communicator/camera/data bank devices that would know my location to within inches while giving me X-ray vision - well, I would have thought that story didn't make any sense...   And, sure enough, here we are.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Regional and State Online Resource for Emergency Management (RaSOR-EM) is a web-based, geospatially driven, knowledge center maintained by the National Guard Bureau.  First rolled out in 2008 as the visualization part of the National Guard's Joint State Response Training System (JSRTS), RaSOR-EM has since become an Emergency Management Common Operating Picture (COP) platform for a number of smaller communities.  An official description highlights some its capabilities:
RaSOR-EM provides geographic, demographic, and organizational information in conjunction with advanced mapping capibilities.  With an extensive database that provides comprehensive emergency management data at the local, state and national levels, RaSOR-EM displays conventional maps, digital satellite imagery, or a combination of both.  Maps can be configured to display icons that denote locations of key resources and facilities.  RaSOR-EM also provides the capability to create custom map overlays. 
RaSOR-EM is available to pretty much the same group who would have access to the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN); those individuals with some tangible connection to the Emergency Services Sector.  For more information, use the links below:

Comment: In my opinion, the build concept behind RaSOR-EM is a far better than that used in HSIN.  In RaSOR-EM, textual information about an area (who is the Governor of Minnesota?) is interwoven into the map displays, whereas in HSIN, textual and geospatial information tend to be treated as two completely different things.  The RaSOR-EM interface is also very easy to use and a novice can have a great deal of information at his/her fingertips with only minimal training.  However, RaSOR-EM does have its shortcomings.  It has no online collaborative chat feature like Jabber, some elements of information and links are dated,  and the depth of geospatial data that is available is not much beyond what would be available through services like Google Maps.  All that being said - you owe it to yourself to give RaSOR-EM a test drive and see if it could potentially support your needs.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Burning Down the House

In a story that is being widely reported by the Detroit, Midwest, and some national news outlets, Detroit Fire Commissioner Donald Austin is giving consideration to letting vacant buildings in that city burn without intervention.  Reporting on the issue has been neutral to mildly negative, with most taking the tack: "What could he possibly be thinking to propose such an idea?"  To read an article on the situation as reported by the Detroit Free Press, click the link below:

Comment:  Although to cub reporters on this story the Commissioner's idea probably looks like a ploy to get money restored to his budget, my vote would be to let the Commissioner do exactly what he is proposing.  A 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Fire Department, Commissioner Austin has only been with the Detroit Fire Department since May of last year.  However, in that short time he has already won praise for reducing the number of fires during the annual Angels' night by more than 44%.  Secret weapon? Real-time tracking of evening events using GIS.  And his proposed approach to vacant buildings is no different than what award winning Fire Chief Don Oliver of Wilson, North Carolina has been doing for years. Faced with scads of abandoned warehouses in his city as the tobacco industry began its slide toward oblivion in the early 1990's, Chief Oliver has resorted to the heavy use of GIS on Mobile Data Terminals (MDT) to make known to his firefighters which buildings were worth risking lives to save.  Abandoned buildings get to - burn, baby, burn.  So, I sincerely hope Commissioner Austin's plan gets to "rock on" because it is ultimately about saving the lives of firefighters.....

Lead photo credit:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 24, 2012: Somewhere on a Dark, Massive Parking Lot in the Washington, D.C. Metro

It's a simple story, sent to me just after midnight East Coast time, April 24, 2012, from a stranded motorist in a parking lot in the Washington, D.C. metro.  It goes something like this:

There I am, at 18STH99719995, in need of help, on a 400 acre campus, in a sea of parking lots, with no readily useful landmarks or street addresses.

So I try calling AAA for help -- trying to describe my location with no street signs/addresses.

"Well, can you take a coordinate?"
"Oh, no, I don't think so."  Comes the answer on the other end of the line.
"Ok, are you at a computer, with access to the web?"
"Yes."  She replies.
"Ok, go to, now, look for the "Map Locator & Downloader" link in the upper left hand corner of the screen.......when it opens, type in 18STH99719995 in the search block, then hit enter."
"Oh, wow, that's awesome!"  She says as if she had just watched the Space Shuttle launch.....
"Ok, now describe where I'm at."
"Blah, blah, blah."  To the inch, she had it right. 

Now I'll get to see if she can translate my exact location into some vague nominal data that the responder can find.

Comment: The above - very real - story brought to you by the U.S. National Grid (USNG).  It's all so easy, but until it becomes the nation's language of location for response, we have a long way to go to get ready for the next big disaster.  In the meantime, see the right side bar for some USNG references including a promo that will show you how to use USGS download site used in the story above.  And, if you are looking for the best USNG mashup around, check out:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Google's StreetView X2

This probably won't be news for the Google freaks out there, but over the past ten days there have been a couple of interesting StreetView developments.

1. StreetView Comes to Israel

Over the weekend, the Israeli government formally granted Google the right to turn on its StreetView feature in that country.  Beyond typical images that don't quite fit together perfectly in places  - as in the doubled set of sandals in the scene above - the Israeli government placed some restrictions on facial recognition (see also above - the man from Google) and on place views that could potentially jeopardize security.  However, the launch was not without controversy, with more than a few concerned that StreetView could be used by terrorists for attack planning.  To learn more, click the link below to read an article by the Associated Press:

Comment: Unfortunately, as we all know, terrorism concerns in Israel are not without merit.  However, as a way to help readers visualize that thought with better clarity, within the field of view of the beachside park above is the site of one of Israel's worst terrorism incidents.  It stands behind the fence on the left side of the photo; it's called the Dolpinarium.  I've strolled by it enough to know it stands largely untouched since the night of June 1, 2001, when a suicide-bomber carrying a drum filled full of explosives and ball bearings killed 21 and wounded 132 (mostly teenagers) waiting in the admission line of what was at that time a sea-side discotheque.  So against that backdrop, the debate taking place in Israel about what should be geospatially offered to the general public online, is one that is going to repeat itself many times over in the coming years - much like what is already happening in the U.S. and India.  And, if we don't get it right - the consequences could be substantial. 

See the right side bar for the U.S. geospatial data sharing guidelines of the FGDC and NSGIC.

2.  John Stewart on Google's $25,000 StreetView Fine by the FCC

Comment: Hope your workweek goes well!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Colorado Wildfire: Emergency Notification System Failure

On March 26, 2012, a prescribed burn set a few days earlier by the Colorado State Forest Service  in an area southwest of Denver exploded into the "Lower North Fork Fire".  The fire eventually burned 4140 acres, destroyed 27 homes and has been blamed for three deaths.  On Wednesday, April 18, 2012, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office released a report indicating there was no criminal wrong doing associated with this wildfire.  That finding left many individuals impacted by the tragedy wondering about the distinction between criminal behavior and what they believe is at least incompetence by public officials. In that vein, a point of contention has been the Emergency Notification System (ENS) used by the Jefferson County Emergency Communications Authority (JCECA) failed to work properly during the fire.  At its core, an ENS system relies on an accurate relationship between a phone number and the physical location (or geo-code) for that number (typically, a street centerline-address).  In the case of the Lower North Fork Fire, a significant number of evacuation notifications were auto-dialed to addresses miles away from the fire, while some addresses in the evacuation zone weren't notified at all - with at least one death being directly attributed to this failure.  Indeed, a cursory post-event examination found more than 100,000 geo-coding errors in the ENS database that was in use at the time of the fire.  To learn more, use any of the links below:

7 News Video (Denver):

9News Video (Denver):

Comment:  "Gee, you sure posted a lot of links and other stuff about this fire.  Don't you think that was a little overkill?"  Nope, the overkill is exactly the point.  Make a mistake the public will find out about when it comes to using geospatial in an emergency management situation, and just plan on that mistake being magnified in the press many times over because "where" is at the root of every response.  And, for anybody who thinks I'm picking on Colorado with this discussion - truth be known, I'd instead say if this issue came forward in the Denver region, it can happen ANYWHERE in the nation - including Minnesota.  That's because Denver has one of the nation's most advanced geospatial communities, as well as a technologically "with it" Public Safety sector.  Yet, here we find Google Map locations used to reference cell phone number locations, and a reverse call system built using a different database than the one being used by dispatch centers - and with no apparent effort to cross-check them until after the fire.  Yup, we have a national problem - one that needs national leadership!

For more on generic 9-1-1 problems, see: The 9-1-1 Carnage Continues....

Lead photo credit: Denver Post

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Memphis to Get New 9-1-1 System

Earlier this month, Shelby County, Tennessee - which includes the city of Memphis - announced it would soon be soliciting bids to replace the various 911 dispatch systems currently being used in the county. This replacement effort will involve creating a uniform geospatial database for the entire county so future city and county dispatch efforts will be using identical location information. The county is anticipating spending between $3 and $6 million on the project. To learn more, click the link below to read an article from the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

Comment: Although this article does not come out and say it directly, the Memphis effort appears driven by the State of Tennessee's desire to implement Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) statewide; a system that simply will not work without a highly accurate geospatial database that is shared. And what's happening in Tennessee is the tip of the iceberg of what is beginning to take place all across the U.S.A., to include a similar effort currently underway in Minnesota. Behind it all is the need to ensure 911 systems of the future will be able to effectively manage emerging communication technologies ranging from multi-media messaging to video.

On a related side note, the URISA/National Emergency Number Association (NENA) Addressing Conference will be held in Memphis on August 6-9, 2012.  An event which is certain to turn anyone into.
...a hunka, hunka burning love.....

Lead Image Credit:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

LandScan: Disaster Planning on a Global Scale

Developed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL), LandScan is a geo-referenced database of world population that is mapped to world-wide grid squares approximately 1 KM in size.  In addition to this fairly precise level of population density awareness, the algorithm which assigns values to the grid squares uses a number of refining factors to include:

  • Sub-national level census counts for each country,
  • Land cover,
  • Roads,
  • Slope,
  • Urban area,
  • Village locations, and
  • High resolution imagery analysis.

This blended approach creates what many believe is the world's most accurate database for visualizing location of world headcount.  Consequently, its value for disaster response purposes is significant, particularly for underdeveloped parts of the globe where data may be less than readily available.  The LandScan data set is free for U.S. Government agencies.  For all other entities, cost is determined on an individual basis by Wayzata, Minnesota based company East View. To learn more, consider reviewing any of the following information sources:

Comment:  With Oak Ridge National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories all having developed significant geospatial programs supporting national response needs (See: NISAC?), the handwriting is on the wall for the Emergency Services Sector when it comes to Geospatial Information Technology. Adopt, adapt, or get left behind.

Lead Graphic Credit: Federal Laboratory Consortium

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Two Toots For Tuesday

There are two upcoming events that may be of interest to readers of this blog.....

Item One:

What: "When Disaster Strikes, People Turn to the Internet For Information"
  • Where: Free online webinar
  • Who: Open to education and public-sector employees only
  • When: Thursday, April 26, 2012, 11:00am PT / 2:00pm ET
  • Soundbite: Google is working with 1st Responders to make critical disaster information more accessible. 
  • Full Sell: Join Emergency Management, the Center for Digital Government and Google for an insightful live webcast. Hear firsthand how Emergency Management agencies and the “Whole Community” of 1st Responders can now leverage new simple to use tools from Google to run many of their internal operations during a crisis.

Comment: If given the opportunity to do so, I will be asking about this: Google's Crisis Map - Falling Short of the Mark, and/or this: Google Public Alerts.  I'll be nice.

Item Two:

What: "Thought Leader Symposium"
  • Where: Keystone, Colorado
  • Who: CIO/CTOs, executives, and managers from public and private infrastructure -related organizations with significant geospatial technology investments; or from industries whose responsibilities entail implementing and maintaining technologies and systems that would be enhanced by improved location-based information and support.
  • When: May 16-18
  • Soundbite: Nationally unique educational forum focusing on: "Driving Business Excellence through Enterprise Technology Integration".
  • Full Sell: GITA’s Thought Leader Symposium on Driving Business Excellence through Enterprise Technology Integration will provide a unique opportunity for geospatial and information management professionals from utilities and government agencies, to openly explore and discuss the next frontier of geospatial information and technology with the leading solution providers and integrators. The overall focus of the Symposium will be to facilitate discussion on how to leverage existing investments in geospatial technology to better integrate the capabilities – and thereby maximize the financial return – of other enterprise technology investments.

Comment: Brought to you by the same folks that developed the GECCo Workshop series.  Consequently, as was the case when Dr. Carl Reed delivered his presentations at the Twin Cities GECCo, I expect many of these sessions will have nuggets that are also applicable to geospatial technology implementations supporting the Emergency Services Sector.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Return of the GECCo!

In anticipation of release of the Twin Cities GECCo After Action Report/Improvement Plan (AARIP) in early May, a "Post Event" page has been added to the Twin Cities GECCO web site.  Included there now, find slides of table top exercise team notes, links to two "First Look" presentations given to the MetroGIS Coordinating Council, and information about two Department of Homeland Security standards that were used to create the AARIP: the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP), and the Target Capabilities List.  At approximately 90 pages, the AARIP is a substantial document that may have value beyond the Twin Cities region.  To learn more, go here.

Comment: Granted, it's been slow going when it comes to getting the AARIP on the street for the Twin Cities GECCo.  However, from the onset it was a goal of this effort to do it "right" so this event would produce a document with clearly defined actionable steps for correcting deficiencies.  I believe you will find that to be the case when the final report is released. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Foolish Friday: Steam Pipe Break in St. Louis

Last week, this blog offered a post about a GAO investigation that determined the nation's awareness about potential hazards beneath our feet is not what it should be.  In that case, the report's focus was on collection pipes associated with the natural gas industry - mostly a rural issue.  Shortly after that piece was posted, there was a steam pipe rupture in downtown St. Louis which highlighted a different aspect of the problem - one that is mostly an urban issue.  Watch the 24 second video below:

Now read the article below from

Comment: One minute we have responders and media camera crews sightseeing and snapping photos, and the next we have HAZMAT crews in full regalia working through the Easter weekend to clean up the site from asbestos.  Although there is certain to be some degree of overstatement about the potential danger of an event like this by the media, I respectfully doubt anyone would have been strolling through the area the way these men did if they had any idea about what that steam pipe rupture potentially meant to them in terms of personal safety; that being exposure to asbestos.  Consequently, we have another example telling us situational awareness about the nation's underground infrastructure is not what it should be.  Indeed, even when we do know where things are - we don't necessarily know what that information means.  There is only one fix for this problem - visualization of infrastructure data through GIS! 

Lead photo credit: Talbot Brooks, corroding, underground pipeline spaghetti, Fulton St. in New York City, near South Street Seaport.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Drone Arrest - Legal or Not?

In follow up to a story first reported here in mid-December (See: North Dakota: First Known Use of a Drone During the Arrest of a U.S. Citizen), a North Dakota man has decided to challenge the legality of his arrest because it involved the use of a drone.  The arrest, which took place outside the tiny City of Lakota, ND, has recently started to attract the attention of scholars and national news media.  In that regard, find below two stories for your consideration:


Comment:  In my opinion, the CBS news piece is well worth the 7:22 it takes to watch it.  After using the case in North Dakota as the initial focal point, it then explores the idea that, like it or not, the technology is here, but the policies are not.  Sound familiar?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Location Determination to Within Centimeters - Using Your Cell Phone

In late March, Broadcom announced it had perfected a chip for hand-held devices that can use different types of location services to determine a user's position to within centimeters.  Indeed, by selectively using combinations of GNSS signals, Wi-Fi, and the various native navigation capabilities found in many smart phones - like accelerometer and aerometer - the potential exists to know location inside buildings with the same degree of accuracy.   Find below two articles on this development:

Comment: Since the dawn of civilization, surveying has been both an art and science that only a handful of highly trained professionals could do accurately.  But, developments such as this one are certain to bring reflection: "Is the profession of surveying a "dead man walking" when a common cell phone will soon be able to determine location with better accuracy than a trained surveying crew could have done 15 years ago?"

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 Crowd Sourcing Maps.....the Police Don't Want

In February, Witness Confident, a London based nonprofit, launched  in an attempt to bring a crowd sourcing approach to a segment of crime it felt has gone under-reported - street crime.  As described on the website, the effort is designed to, "make it easier for victims to report street violence, easier for witnesses to engage, easier for locals to judge how safe their streets are, and easier for the police to catch violent criminals".  

However, despite Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) involvement in the project for over a year, their concerns about aspects of caused them to walk away from the project prior to launch.  To learn more, use the links below:

Comment: It's too bad the issues that prevented the MPS from endorsing could not be worked out before the site was launched.  However, MPS concerns are understandable.  Just because has the technology to make something happen, doesn't mean their system output will fit cleanly into the policies and structure of the organization it is ultimately supposed to be supporting; in this case, the MPS.  However, the flip side of the situation is that approaches like and Crime Push (See: Not So Fast - Crime Push) are crowd sourcing technologies that are certain to find their way into the law enforcement community at some point in the future because they are force multipliers.  Hence, the speed at which that happens will be driven entirely by the rate at which the Emergency Services Sector and technology communities can understand each others' perspectives. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

HSIP Gold and Freedom Released for 2012

On Friday, April 6, 2012, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Homeland Infrastructure Foundation-Level Data (HIFLD) Working Group officially announced release of the Homeland Security Infrastructure Protection (HSIP) geospatial data sets for 2012. There are two versions of these data sets designed to provide the nation's Emergency Services Sector with the most complete and up-to-date information about the location of the United States' infrastructure. As provided by DHS, find below descriptions and procedures for ordering:
HSIP Gold 2012 Description: HSIP Gold is a unified homeland infrastructure geospatial data inventory assembled by NGA in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for common use by the Homeland Security and Homeland Defense (HLS/HD) and Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery (EPR&R) Community. It is a compilation of geospatial data characterizing domestic infrastructure and boundaries assembled from a variety of Federal agencies, commercial vendors, and State mission partners. Its use is therefore restricted to the licensing and use terms set forth by the data source entities. HSIP Gold 2012 is a password protected five DVD set and is subject to For Official Use Only (FOUO) handling guidance.
Ordering Instructions: Due to licensing restrictions, NGA can only disseminate HSIP Gold to those requestors who are validated as Federal Interagency members of the HLS/HD Community (or their supporting National Guard Forces, contractors, and consultants). If you would like to request the HSIP Gold 2012 data, please login to the HIFLD Web site ( and select the “Submit Request for HSIP Gold 2012” link. If you are an HSIP Gold 2011 recipient, you are not required to re-request HSIP Gold 2012. To receive a copy of HSIP Gold 2012, you MUST validate your user information under “My HSIP Requests” for processing and delivery. For assistance with HSIP Gold access or dissemination, please contact the NGA HSIP Team at:

HSIP Freedom 2012 Description - HSIP Freedom is composed of data layers from HSIP Gold that have been identified as license-free and distribut­able to Federal, State, Local, and Tribal Government, Industry Partners, and their supporting contractors. HSIP Freedom 2012 can be downloaded via the HSIN GIS Community of Interest (COI).
Ordering Instructions: Access to the HSIN GIS COI portal can be requested by sending an email request to or by calling the HSIN Help Desk at 1-866-430-0162. Please ensure the HSIN “GIS Community of Interest” is requested for processing.
Requestors must be prepared to provide the HSIN Help Desk and HSIN GIS portal owner with the following information:
  •  Name
  •  Official email address
  •  Organization
  •  Phone number
  •  Supervisor’s name
Users without a “.gov or .mil” email must also have a government sponsor and include:
  • Government sponsor’s name
  • Government sponsor’s email
  • Government sponsor’s organization
  • Government sponsor’s phone number 
Access to HSIP Freedom is updated every Monday. If you have just received access to the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) Community of Interest (COI) (, please return the following Monday to download HSIP Freedom.

Ques­tions on HSIP Freedom can be e-mailed to the DHS Office of Infrastructure Protection (IP) Infrastruc­ture Information Collection Division (IICD) at

Still need more information?  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) sheets about both HSIP Gold and Freedom can be found in the right column of this site.  

Comment: If the above information looks like a bunch of stuff you've never heard about before, don't feel like the Lone Ranger. Hopefully, the following bullets will help you gain a better understanding of what this is all about:

  • There are two main differences between HSIP Gold and Freedom. 1.) Raw Numbers - HSIP Gold now has approximately 450 layers of geospatial data, while Freedom contains about 260. 2.) Distribution Restrictions - Most of the additional layers in HSIP Gold were either purchased from vendors or were acquired from sources that placed restrictions on distribution. Therefore, distribution of Gold is closely controlled because these licensing restrictions typically amount to money flowing back to data providers (for example, Dun and Bradstreet). There are no such issues with the data sets in Freedom. Consequently, in most cases this means Gold is restricted to the Federal government and a handful of State agencies, while Freedom is widely available down to the local level.
  • The HSIP data sets owe their existence to the realization after 9/11 that local emergencies could quickly turn into national disasters, and the Federal government's geospatial understanding lacked both the granularity and uniformity necessary to effectively support local response efforts. Unfortunately, it was a lesson that had to be relearned during Katrina.
  • Although the combined efforts of DoD, DHS, NGA, USGS and organizations like HIFLD have brought the nation a great distance from those previous tragedies, reality remains that when it comes to static geospatial data about infrastructure, the vertical and horizontal flow of information is still not what it should be. Data in these sets is only as good as the information gathered by Federal contractors and/or provided by units of government who are willing to share. Therefore, a point to remember: "The Man Standing On the Piece of Ground Knows It Best." If the data you are using from either Gold or Freedom doesn't pass the sniff test of having come from a local source - use it with caution!

Friday, April 6, 2012

EPC Update - The Real Thing

It's been a really long time since I've offered comments on this site that could be reasonably construed as an "EPC Update".  Alas, the story of my life; I set off to do one thing and it mutates into something completely different.  So, without further adieu, in bullet form, here are those goodies that many of you used to get by email:

  • Next EPC Meeting: June 14, 2012, Metropolitan Counties Emergency Services Building. Details here and available using the link in the right side bar.
  • March 8, 2012 EPC Meeting Power Points and the like - will be available using the appropriate links in the right side bar starting on Monday (I'm in the Philippines right now - and currently, Internet stuff like upload technology, is not my friend).  
  • Recorded Power Points from EPC meetings: Now available for the first time. Links to them will also be available on Monday in the right side bar. If there wasn't proof enough before that I'm a crazy man - that will no longer be the case.  I'm still fiddling around trying to get some bugs out of the Minnesota DNR Aerial presentation from the March meeting, but other than that, all presentations given at the December 2011 and March 2012 meetings will be available.  While no one will be winning an Academy Award for video quality, the recordings should be good enough to satisfy the needs of those who couldn't  make the meetings. This approach is also part of the decision to stop broadcasting EPC meetings through the HSIN Connect system.  Apparent use of that product wasn't high enough to justify the continued effort. 
  • Publication Schedule for This Blog: This site has a solid and growing readership that is greatly appreciated.  To the degree folks are reading and thinking about the ways the revolution in geospatial and related technologies can benefit the Emergency Services Sector, the better off we will all be. To that end, there are now over 340 posts on this blog that relate some facet of that story. With that level of volume now available, I've made the decision to cut back publication to Monday through Friday.  That's not to say there isn't some part of the story that needs to be told during the weekend, but rather that close tracking of weekend readership indicated there were only a handful of folks paying a visit when the distractions of the weekend were calling.  I'm a big believer in reinforcing strength, so that's where the effort and time will be devoted going forward - Monday through Friday readers.      
  • U.S. National Grid Tidbit: Rumor mill indicates Wisconsin is getting ready to plunk down over $100,000 to begin USNG implementation efforts in the state.
  • Twin Cities GECCo: After Action Report/Improvement Plan is in second redraft and is expected to be officially released by the end of April.  Readers of this blog will be some of the first to get their hands on it.
  • Congratulations - two are in order:
  1. I recently received word that the EPC's Joellla Givens has been selected to participate in the FBI's premier outreach program, its Citizens' Academy.  That's a great honor, and I can't wait to hear how she does on the firearms portion......
  2. Dan Ross, long time member of the EPC and strong advocate for bringing together the geospatial and Emergency Services Sector communities is Minnesota's new Geospatial Information Officer.  This is a fabulous development and I look forward to working with Dan and all MnGeo staff as the EPC marches into its 10th year in existence. 

Well, all for this EPC Update.  Hope you have a wonderful Easter weekend with friends and family!


P.S.  Yesterday, the United States Coast Guard sent the Japan Tsunami "ghost ship" to bottom of the Pacific.  Click here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Google's Project Glass


As reported on this blog in February (See: Google HUD Glasses), Google has been working to put augmented reality glasses on the market by the end of the year.  On Wednesday, Google officially unveiled the effort and gave it a name: Project Glass.  To learn more, use the link below, or view the video:

Google Unveils Project Glass Augmented Reality Eyewear (BBC)

Comment: I love Google for their willingness to push the edges of what's possible. By doing so, they are helping shape a future where the delivery of location services will substantially improve the ability of the Emergency Services Sector to do its job. Specifically, without this kind of effort, awareness that the data services needed to make this product work to the degree envisioned (closed subway, bookstore navigation, etc.), would still be decades away.  Instead, Google has shrunk that time span to being only years away.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Utilities and Disasters: Oncor Shows the Way!

After attending GITA's Dallas-Forth Worth, Texas GECCo workshop conducted on June 16-17, 2011, representatives of Texas electrical provider Oncor took to heart the message that America's infrastructure owners can do more to help the Emergency Services Sector and public by geospatially enabling their operational data.  Diligently working to find a balance between safeguarding data that could be misused, and increasing the granularity of information available during a disaster, on April 2, 2012, Oncor unveiled a new online outage map that provides an updated view of system status every 10 minutes.  On April 3, 2012, a series of tornadoes struck the Dallas-Forth Worth Region. Find below some representative views of the Oncor system captured during that event: 

Outage map with current weather overlay - blue line is service area - color coded triangles with red circles show outages in general area

Outages can be shown by county or zip code, both textually and graphically

Information about time of report, estimated time of restoration, and number of customers impacted is available down to street level

To learn more, use the links below:

Comment: Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. The day after the Oncor system went live, tornadoes hit.  The topic of the Dallas-Fort Worth GECCo: a tornado scenario that mirrors the April 3, 2012 outbreak to the point where it is spooky.  But beyond those ironies is the real message.  Through its efforts, Oncor has shown the rest of the utility industry that it is possible to share real-time data about its infrastructure in a way that is of real benefit to both the public and Emergency Services Sector - without compromising corporate or national security.  And for that, it's hard to say enough good things about Oncor and its staff.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

IBM's Deep Thunder

Over the last year or so, more than a few technology publications have run articles on IBM's Deep Thunder, an effort to provide hour by hour weather forecasts three and one-half (3.5) days out for locations as small as one kilometer.  Although Deep Thunder has been an ongoing project in part since the 1970's, what has recently brought attention to the effort is advancements in computing power, mobility and visualization have finally given legs to the project.  Early in March, IBM showcased its latest Deep Thunder developments to members of Congress and the media using iPad and Android platforms.  Want to know more?  Use one of the links below:

Comment: You know you are getting old when you can remember the local TV channel weather man drawing the sun, clouds and fronts on a paper map, on which he then wrote temperatures.  Sorry, forgot to mention that was on the one local TV channel, and it was broadcasting in black and white.   Hopefully, before the clock runs that long again the technology that Deep Thunder represents will be in common use in the Emergency Services Sector.

In a somewhat related development, on Monday, the National Weather Service began using more graphic verbal warnings to broadcast the danger of on-coming weather.  Click here, to learn more. 

Monday, April 2, 2012



When the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created in 2002, it instantly became the third largest Department in the U.S. government.  Its birth also triggered the largest reorganization of American government since the Department of Defense was created in 1947.  With all that reshuffling, it should be little wonder some smaller parts of DHS have ended up being known only to a few.  One such part of DHS is the National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC) - an entity that has Geospatial Information Technology (GIT) at the core of just about everything it does.  As described by a DHS fact sheet, NISAC,
"...provides advanced modeling and simulation capabilities for the analysis of critical infrastructures, their interdependencies, vulnerabilities, and complexities.  NISAC is a partnership between Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). It was established in the year 2000 to integrate the laboratories’ expertise in the modeling and simulation of complex systems for evaluating national security problems."
If you would like to learn more, find below some links to help you do that:

Comment: If you hang around the water cooler long enough with folks in the Federal government who are responsible for dealing with "big, bad and ugly", sooner or later you will hear the term "reachback".  Reachback is a way of saying if personnel in the field need expert advice, there is an organization somewhere that has spent a lot of time and money to be ready for whatever has just been encountered.  When it comes to disasters, infrastructure, and DHS - reachback equals NISAC. 

    Sunday, April 1, 2012

    Pipelines, Pipelines, Where Are Those Pipelines?

    Colorado Public Utilities Commission
    Last week, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) released a report that indicated understanding of the nation's underground pipeline system is not what it should be.  In this case, the report focused on the "gas gathering lines" associated with the business of shale deposit natural gas recovery.  Specifically, the pipes used to transport gas captured from these fields to processing facilities are currently unregulated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).  As a result, there is a pipeline network thousands of miles in length and rapidly expanding about which very little is known - even location.  To learn more, use the links below:

    Comment: Despite my best effort to avoid the pun, all I can say is the only way to get a handle on this "booming" business going forward is GIS.  Indeed, while the specific concerns of this report are directed at shale gas producing states like Pennsylvania and Texas, national understanding of the location and health of the pipeline transportation system is far less than it should be.  Case in point: The March 17, 2011, explosion of a CenterPoint natural gas main in Minneapolis.  Consequently, look for GIS use to "explode" in this sector as the nation tries to come to grips with an aging infrastructure of HAZMAT pipes and a rapidly expanding natural gas extraction industry.

    For more on this subject, consider a read of: Pipelines, Black Swans and Data Governance by J. Tracy Thorleifson.