Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Remembering: The I-35W Bridge Collapse

Five (5) years ago today, the Twin Cities experienced what is probably its most famous disaster when the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge collapsed at 6:05 P.M. Central Daylight Time (video above). 13 people were killed and 145 injured. And from the outset of that event, maps were crucial to telling the story to the public, managing the response, and directing the recovery.  A point visually depicted below:

Telling the Story to the Public:

Managing the Response:

Directing the Recovery:

Comment: In the tidal wave of reports, analysis and findings coming out of this tragic event, FEMA offered the following observation about the quality of local efforts to provide visualization support
Technology played a major role in managing the response and recovery efforts. From the real-time situational awareness provided by site video cameras, to the Web-based Geographic Information System (GIS) Common Operating Picture and traffic management systems, to the use of municipal Wi-Fi, technology was tried and tested in the I-35W Bridge incident. The technology not only performed well, it transformed the way response and recovery were handled.
The irony in the above endorsement is that almost to a person, the GIS professionals indirectly praised above for their efforts in the I-35W response, have gone on to shape the EPC's current efforts based on their belief that the delivery of services during the I-35W Bridge Collapse Response could have been so much better.  A point carried forward to this day by the Twin Cities GECCo After Action Report and Improvement Plan released in mid-June 2012.  Consequently, on this 5th anniversary of the I-35W Bridge Collapse, the EPC remains committed to doing everything it can to improve the power of GIS so that it is effectively available to save lives and reduce suffering during future Minnesota disasters.

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