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 store.usgs.gov, 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: http://dhost.info/usngweb/.