Friday, November 30, 2012

Future Monitoring Friday: Students, Women, Drivers, Cars, and Swimmers

So little time, so many stories - the dilemma is always where to cut off the insanity - and the future is certain to be crazy. So what do you say we start out with a blast from the past.......

Monitoring Students (or, I Told You So): A while back I ran a piece about schools in the San Antonio area that were requiring students to wear RFID chip ID's so school officials can track the location of individual students. Although this is not the first time a school system has employed this approach, it just might be the last. It looks like if the courts don't put a stop to the practice, the hackers just might. More below:

Schools’ Tracking Devices Causes Controversy
(CBS Houston, November 25, 2012)

Monitoring Women: Electronic monitoring has just showed up in Saudi Arabia in a big way. If you are female, and leaving the country - your male guardian is going to get a text message telling him about the development. All you gals out there, think about that one next time you use SMS (or drive, or do both....perish the thought). You can monitor this development below:

Electronic Tracking: New Constraint For Saudi Women 
(France 24, November 22, 2012)

Monitoring Drivers: While we are on the topic of driving, kiss goodbye to all that actuarial science stuff your auto insurance company has been using to figure out what a crummy driver you are (and correspondingly run up your rates). Turns out there's a better way - through monitoring. You know, that sweet little innocent plug-in thingy Flo is waving around on TV. It's a wave of the future and its headed our way. GPS not included....for the time being.  Plug in to the story and video below:

So You’re a Good Driver? Let’s Go to the Monitor 
(New York Times, November 24, 2012)

Monitoring Cars: OK, so the article below is a little cheesy and the embedded video is less than large, but its a report worth tuning into when it comes to trend.  There are a few folks in Minnesota who have been blabbing about the Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) situation, and it also looks like there are some folks in Maryland doing the same - its one thing to collect all that ALPR data, and its an entirely another thing to know what to do with it.  Below, to monitor the situation in Maryland:

(CBS Baltimore, November 14, 2012)

Monitoring Swimmers: Oh great, its bad enough we have to worry about Jaws showing up during the occasional dip in the deep blue, now we have to worry about Robocod?  Leave it to the techno freaks living in Mass to come up the American version of the Brit fish drone. I mean, what else would you expect from a state that has the "Sacred Cod" hanging in its House of Representatives?  Fish for the story below:

(MailOnline, November 28, 2012)

Have a Great Weekend!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

USGS Earthquake Data Now on Google Public Alerts

Earlier this month, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced that going forward earthquake alerts generated by its seismographic system will be incorporated into Google's Public Alerts map interface.  This agreement has the USGS joining the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as a second Federal agency with a collaborative arrangement for broadcasting hazard information via the Internet giant. NOAA is providing Weather Alert information to Google.  Below for more:

(USGS News Release, November 2, 2012)

Comment: Nice!  Now if we could just get USGS seismologists and Google to offer a U.S. National Grid option for viewing this earthquake data, we'd be one step closer to the day when everyone is using the same language of location for disasters. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Looking for Answers: Gas Leak Explosion in Massachusetts

For the past four days or so its been headline news - Employee of a Springfield, Massachusetts area utility company mistakenly punctures an underground gas line, thereby triggering an explosion that levels the Scores Gentlemen's Club, damages multiple buildings, and injures at least 21. Initially, reports from the field attributed the event to an incorrectly marked gas line location. Now, investigators have been asking the deeper question: Why?  More below: 

(The Republican, AM Edition, November 26, 2012)

(The Republican, PM Edition, November 26, 2012)

Comment: This event has its basis in a classic problem when it comes to GIS use in the underground utility community.  It's hard as heck to justify spending the dollars needed to "digitize maps" of stuff hidden underground until a point of comparison is offered. Then, the choice is obvious. Pay a million dollars or so to convert old paper line drawings into accurate electrons and increase the odds an accident will be avoided, or do nothing and pay 100's of millions to settle law suits and damage claims on the backside of an event like this. Little doubt Pacific Gas and Electric understands that point based on what happened in a San Mateo County Court this past summer.

Besides Federal and State investigative efforts, there are trade groups giving strong consideration to the many facets of this issue. One of them is the Common Ground Alliance. They'll be holding their annual convention in West Palm Beach, Florida on March 12-14, 2013.  Details here.

Lead photo credit:   

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Color Red" Missile Attack App

During the recent Israeli-Hamas conflict, many Israelis living close to the Gaza border used an iPhone app that provides alerts about incoming rocket attacks. Called "Code Red", the idea for this recently developed app is credited to Liron Be'er, a 13-year-old boy living in the Southern Israeli town of Be'er Sheva.  After application developer Kobi Snir stepped forward to help implement the idea, demand for the app took off. More than 130,000 copies of the free app have been download since the start of the recent conflict. Link and video below for more:

New App Offers ‘Sderot Experience'
(Israeli Times, November 12, 2012)

Comment: War is a disaster for everyone involved.  Good to see there are those who are thinking about ways to use mobile technologies to mitigate the impact. 

Lead photo credit: Jerusalem World News 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Be Careful What You Tweet

In the preceding two weeks there has been a substantial uptick in the number of stories in the press about "tweets gone bad".  In addition, there have been a handful of similar reports about Facebook postings; with the range of what is happening going from authorities enforcing local laws, to excessively aggressive posting behavior by posters. Given the dynamics of this story, the best way to tell it is to provide the headlines:

November 25:
Libel Case That Snared BBC Widens to Twitter (New York Times)

November 21
China Arrests Blogger for Twitter Joke (The Guardian)
November 20: 
Is Hama's Twitter Account Illegal? (The Daily Beast)

November 19
India Holds Woman for Facebook Post on Thackeray (AFP)
Murdoch Apologizes to ADL for 'Jewish Owned Press' Tweet (Politico)

November 17
Twitter Suspends American Orthodox Jew for Tweeting Anti-Obama Cartoon About Israel (The Daily Caller)

November 15
In UK, Twitter, Facebook Rants Land Some in Jail (

November 13: 
BBC Chief to Staff: Stop Tweeting Our Troubles (Boston Herald)

November 9: 
Tattoo on Facebook Aimed at Cop Lands Gang Member in Jail (Star Tribune)

Comment: This summer, Greek track star Voula Papachristou (pictured above) was removed from her country's Olympic team for a racially intensive joke she published on her Twitter account. Yet, here we find in the articles above, the carnage recently experienced by a broad range of society that didn't learn from that event.  Social media truly allows entities and individuals to talk to the world. And what's technically possible with social media does not mean it is either socially or legally acceptable. Consequently, because of the absolute necessity for the Emergency Services Sector to effectively communicate with the public during a disaster, it's imperative that long before these powerful communications tools are used, policies and procedures are put in place.

Lead photo credit:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Frantic Friday: Carts, Deals, Spies, Dinner, and Perspective

To be certain, today in the United States will be FRANTIC as shoppers pour through stores, pushing, shoving, clawing at one another to grab the best possible deals, all in name of being ready for the day when most of the Christian world will celebrate the birth of a man of peace and grace. Yup, makes sense to me. So along those lines, find below another one of my mindless collections of totally unrelated stories about whatever.

Shoppers, Start Your Carts!: Maybe some of the insanity of Black Friday could be curbed if shoppers had a map. Odd thing about the picture above - the idea has been around since at least 2008 and has never really caught on. I guess shoppers like to be lost...or retailers want them that way so they will buy more stuff during their wanderings. Below for a tidbit more:

(Business Insider, October 1, 2012)

Have We Got A Deal For You!: Giving an iPAD for Christmas is so pass√©. Instead, consider joining the throw back movement by giving an electronic gift like a 1951 calculator - one checking in at a mere 2.5 tons. I mean, seriously, it will immediately put a stop to all that whining and complaining that goes along with, "For Christmas, I absolutely must have a (fill in the blank) because my current (fill in the blank) is too slow and outdated."  Story with great pics below:

(Mail Online, November 19, 2012)

Spy In the Eye: Sorry, this one is just too darn creepy for me. It's bad enough that there is something strangely off about department store mannequins to start with. Now, come to find out they really could be giving me the once over has added a whole new level of disturbed to the equation.  Read/view below if you dare:

(Bloomberg, November 21, 2012)

Drone for Christmas Dinner?: Apparently there are some very confused hunters in Pennsylvania (just like in South Carolina). Upon seeing a VERY LARGE pigeon fly into their hunting grounds, there have been at least four attempts, on separate days, to bring down the bird for Christmas dinner. Only problem is, that VERY LARGE pigeon is actually a drone - and some animal rights folks are none too happy about the buckshot. Below for more on a situation that is only going to get worse as privacy and guns square off in the coming drone invasion:

(NBC10 Philadelphia, November 20, 2012)

Putting It All in Perspective
: It's a recently released reminder from the USGS. I'll leave it at that as the shoppers stream through stores looking for the best deals at the best prices. Use the right side bar to drive down into the imagery.

All for this week - wishing you safe travels if Thanksgiving has put you on the road.

Lead photo credit:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

May a bounty of good be in your life today, and every day.  
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thinking About a Different Kind of Disaster Map

I'll be eating turkey tomorrow in celebration of that great American holiday that makes us fatter than we already are: Thanksgiving.  So, find above, offered up for your consideration a different kind of "map".  One that runs in the background during everyday life, but becomes prominent after a disaster.  It's also one that's probably worthy of reflection while sitting on the couch, watching football, and digesting copious amounts of bird topped off by two slices of pie √† la mode. More exactly, if you should find yourself lucky enough to be in that position, consideration of all those things in the human condition that have gone right to make it possible is probably in order. A thought which is more commonly known as - giving thanks. For a bit more on this type of mapping, use the links below:

Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps (Vinay Gupta, July 2010)

Dealing In Security (Mike Bennett,Vinay Gupta, July 2010)

Comment: Wishing you all the best on Thanksgiving Day!

Lead graphic credit:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

TerraGo Map Book Effort Supports WARRP

Toward the end of last month it was announced TerraGo Technologies had successfully delivered to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) a map book system supporting the Department's Wide Area Recovery and Resiliency Program (WARPP). Focusing primarily on response and recovery efforts stemming from a Chemical, Biological, or Radiological (CBR) event, WARRP has requirements that are not considered by most day-to-day Emergency Services Sector operations. Specifically, the geospatial information flow must be able to keep up with a rapidly changing environment, and do so across a large geographic area spanning many jurisdictional boundaries. Against that backdrop, the TerraGo product delivered to DHS - Dynamic Map Book Composer - prints map books on-demand with layers updated on a near real-time basis. To learn more, use the link below:

Comment: In concept, a great product. But once again, the "special value" of this product as envisioned is nearly entirely dependent on the delivery of diverse, numerous, real-time data flows.  What, EXACTLY, is the plan to make that happen?  Go here for a suggestion.

Lead graphic credit: TerraGo Technologies

Monday, November 19, 2012

SMART: Tracking Students to Understand the Flu

In early November, the University of Pittsburgh (UP) launched the second round of a study it calls "Social Mixing and Respiratory Transmission (SMART) in Schools". As stated on the program's website, the goal of the effort is to:
....use multiple methods to quantify the contacts that school children make that could potentially transmit influenza including survey, proximity detectors and GPS devices in order to evaluate each of these methods. We will also link measures of social contact to the risk of acquisition of influenza.
Approximately 450 children carried "motes" (picture of four mote units above) that allowed researchers to track student movements and interaction during the study. Below for more:

Comments: It appears the University of Pittsburgh really "gets it" when it comes to understanding location is a key factor impacting the transmission of deadly communicable diseases, as well as other public health crises. As noted earlier this year, the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) has brought consideration of location into its ground breaking efforts to plan the medical response steps for a nuclear weapon detention in a U.S. metropolitan area (see: Nuke the Neighborhood - Part 1, Nuke the Neighborhood - Part 2). Kudos go out to researchers in both programs for their ability to think spatially!

Lead picture credit: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Friday, November 16, 2012

Following You Friday: St. Pete, LA, Baltimore, Green Bay, and Everywhere Else

"Film at 11:00."  With the accelerating deployment of technologies that are capable of recording your every move, that phrase will have a whole new meaning in the not so distant future. To illuminate that point, find below one of my mindless Friday meanderings - this week through happenings during the past month in the world of surveillance:

What Works in Ft. Lauderdale, Will Work in St. Petersburg: Earlier this year, this blog offered a post on a video surveillance bus in use by the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Police called the Peacemaker.  Looks like St. Petersburg, Florida liked the idea - but this time an armored truck is the platform for keeping an eye on the malcontents.

Keeping Up With the Jones: Heck, if St. Pete's working to leverage the capabilities of video surveillance, maybe its time to revisit the issue for a place like Los Angeles. Sure enough, LA's out to fix some broken cameras and add more in the downtown.

New Anti-Crime Cameras Being Installed Downtown (cbslocal, November 8, 2012)

"I Did Not Say That About The Bus Driver!": No doubt things are tough in Baltimore. This past year there have been more than a few well publicized reports of unprovoked beatings of strangers taking place in public places. So, in the name of Public Safety, video recordings of all riders on Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) buses in Baltimore will be soon joined by voice recordings.

MTA Recording Bus Conversations to Eavesdrop on Trouble (Baltimore Sun, October 17, 2012)

We Don't Need No Stinking Warrant: The limits of what can be collected by use of technologies that are years ahead of the law continues to be explored. Indeed, two Packer fans are sitting in jail because the DEA installed cameras on their property without a warrant and caught them cultivating a substantial marijuana patch. However, unlike the warrantless GPS tracking device case from earlier this year, this time the court sided with the prosecution. 

We Want the Map of Your Hand: Every time a foreign traveler shows up at a U.S. port of entry, they must provide some type of biometeric data to gain entry - usually a digital photo and scanned fingerprints. Now, entities from doctor's offices to schools are moving to employ that same approach for us folks already inside the borders - except this time they'll be looking for the "map" of your hand.

When a Palm Reader Knows More Than Your Life Line (New York Times, November 10, 2012) 

All for this week.  Have a great weekend!

Lead picture:; MTA Bus: Baltimore Sun

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Employing European Satellites for Crisis Management

A growing number of regions in Europe are getting involved in efforts to promote and maximize use of the satellites owned by the European Space Agency (ESA). Known as the Network of European Regions Using Space Technology (NEREUS), they recently published a collection of articles highlighting how their Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program "is being used in new applications and services across Europe." Stories concerning the use of satellite technologies in support of the Emergency Services Sector (ESS) are a substantial part of the 150-page document. For more, see the links below:

GMES for Europe (ESA news release, October 12, 2012)

The Growing Use of GMES Across Europe's Regions (NEREUS-ESA, October 12, 2012, pages 128-145 are the ESS related examples)

Comment: Pretty interesting comparative example - U.S. versus Europe. Because of standardization of disaster services in the United States under the umbrella of FEMA, the level of engagement and imagination when it comes to the use of satellite technologies at a regional or state level has been limited by a top down structure. Europe on the other hand, appears to be developing adaptive and inventive use of the technology as a result of efforts to harmonize various bottom-up user demands. Perhaps a lesson learned for the U.S.?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Since 1999, November 14th has been celebrated as GIS Day. The intent is as follows:
GIS Day provides an international forum for users of geographic information systems (GIS) technology to demonstrate real-world applications that are making a difference in our society.
Activities are planned for locations around the world to recognize the day. To learn more, use the links below to view a short promotional video and/or visit the organizing website:

Comment: Although the event comes a few days after GIS Day, on November 16th, the University of Minnesota will be hosting an GIS event with an Emergency Services Sector spin to it. On that day, Nina Lam, Professor of Environmental Sciences at Louisiana State University will be presenting a free lecture entitled: From Disease to Disaster: Geospatial Analysis for Environmental Decision Making. Below for more:

Lead graphic: Indiana University

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

FCC E9-1-1 Workshop: Determining Indoor Locations for Responses

On October 24, 2012, the FCC hosted a workshop as part of its efforts "to evaluate indoor location positioning technologies."  Driven by the dual realities that consumers are increasingly relying on mobile phones to make 9-1-1 calls, and most of these calls are being made from indoor locations where wireless carriers can't provide precise location information, the FCC has convened an advisory committee to consider potential solutions.  Additionally, in support of these efforts, four companies have submitted technologies for testing in an environment of 20 some structures configured for urban and rural settings. The companies are:
  • Boeing (LEO satellites using the Iridium constellation)
  • NextNav (GPS-like terrestrial beacons)
  • Polaris (RF fingerprinting)
  • Qualcomm (AGPS/AFLT/Cell ID)
Final test results from this effort are expected by March 2013.  To learn more, use the link below (includes 313:48 video recording of the entire proceeding):

Comment: There's a lot riding on this one - it's going to be very interesting to see what the FCC concludes is the best way for cell phone providers to determine indoors locations for 9-1-1 responses.

Monday, November 12, 2012

ALPR Data in Minnesota: Round Three

Last week the Minneapolis Star Tribune published a follow up story to several it had previously run on Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) technology use by Twin Cities law enforcement. At the heart of this new article is a report that the Minneapolis Police Department had been forced to review and reconsider its policies after the earlier columns showed how the general public could use department ALPR data to create a location track for any license plate (individual) submitted. The series of articles has also prompted calls for legislation that will create a uniform statewide policy on ALPR data. Use the link below for the latest article:

Cops Move to Protect License Plate Data (Star Tribune, November 4, 2012)

Comment: The use of geo-tagged data is only going to increase in the years ahead because of the very nature of the Geospatial Revolution. Everything is somewhere, and the technical capability now exists to leverage that reality.  Consequently, its critical that the Emergency Services Sector community and law makers truly understand the potential uses of this type of data, both good and bad. Without that level of engagement by these individuals, our society is going to be stuck in a constant cycle of "reactive behavior" as the revolution in geo-technology continues its explosive growth.      

Lead picture: PIPS Technology

Friday, November 9, 2012

Final Focus Friday: Time Lapse, Map Stories, Top Ten, Wind Speed, and Snooki - Before and After

Enough already - Hurricane Sandy has hogged this site for most of the past couple of weeks. And while there still may be a story or two I will want to pass along over the coming months, it's time for a final focus on the topic with some items that didn't get headlines, but were pretty darn interesting nonetheless.

Item #1: Time lapse hurricane.  In a mere 2:08, you can watch Sandy blow through New York.

Item #2: The New York Times showed the power of the map by using it in a number of quick informational stories about damage in the area. You just can't tell the story of flooding, wind, fire, etc. without showing "where". Link below for more:

Assessing the Damage From Hurricane Sandy (New York Times, October 29, 2012)

Item #3: In an effort to put Hurricane Sandy in perspective, ESRI has published information about the top ten hurricanes of all time to hit the United States. Of course, there is a map at the core of each story. Use the link below:

Item #4: Here's another one by the New York Times - forecast wind speeds along the entire East Coast in a time sequenced presentation.  Really helps drive home the point about the size of the storm and the extent of effects ranging as far away as the Great Lakes.  Below for more:

Wind Speeds Along Hurricane Sandy’s Path (New York Times, October 30, 2012)

Item #5: Ah, hmm. I saved the best for last.  Sandy simply finished off the chaos already taking place in one New Jersey beachside town.  To check out the damage to Snooki's haunts using a photo slide bar approach, use the links below:

Lead graphic:; Snooki:

Thursday, November 8, 2012

NOAA's Hurricane Sandy Imagery Viewer

NOAA has made aerial imagery it collected for the Hurricane Sandy response available on line. Although the coastlines of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are the main areas of coverage, some imagery is also available for Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. According to the accompanying metadata, the imagery: 
...was acquired by the NOAA Remote Sensing Division to support NOAA national security and emergency response requirements. This rapid response product was generated for use by emergency managers for visual analysis of damage in the area. 
The site allows download of imagery via zip files that are between 1MB and 10 MB in size. Imagery was collected between October 31 and November 6. Use the link below to give it a try:

Comment: Great job NOAA! Taken together with the Civil Air Patrol and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team effort supporting FEMA, things are cooking for the damage assessment "view from above".

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

FEMA Thanks Imagery Volunteers

Two individuals at the top of FEMA's leadership structure for the Hurricane Sandy response effort recently posted videos thanking volunteers for their efforts to help categorize damage assessment imagery taken by the Civil Air Patrol.  In the first video below, find FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino. The second features the Federal Coordinating Officer for New Jersey, Mike Hall.

Comment: Things have come a long way at FEMA when individuals like these are complimenting this type of volunteer effort. Hats off to Deputy Serino and FCO Hall!  If you would like to contribute to the imagery classification effort, use the link below to learn how:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

GPS for Stalkers Comes to Minnesota

Last year to much fanfare, Daniel Donovan, the District Attorney for the New York City Borough of Staten Island, announced a program for the Borough that required known domestic abusers to wear a GPS tracking device to keep them away from past victims (see: GPS Tracking of Domestic Abusers Comes to New York City!).  Now, Ramsey County, Minnesota has announced a twist on that concept - this time it's known stalkers who will be required to wear a location reporting ankle bracelet. Introduction of this type of program in Minnesota is part of a growing national trend that has location driven services being used by the law enforcement community in an increasing variety of ways and locations.  To learn more about the stalker program in Minnesota, use the link below:

Ramsey County Project Will Use GPS on Stalkers (Star Tribune, November 1, 2012)

Comment: As noted in the article, effectiveness of these types of programs is only as good as the ability to monitor the whereabouts of an individual wearing the bracelet. Best of luck to Ramsey County on making that piece work as they begin trials on this very worthwhile effort.

Lead picture:

Monday, November 5, 2012

ESRI Rocks! - Smartphone Disaster Survey Templates

In an effort to expand the utility of its various services that support the Emergency Services Sector (ESS), GIS software giant ESRI is promoting ready-to-use Damage Survey templates that work on iPhones, iPads and Android devices.  To help novice users understand how to use this approach, ESRI is also hosting a web page with step-by-step instructions, as well as an example online viewer showing downed trees that have been hypothetically reported for Hurricane Sandy.  Links below, provide more information:

Comment: As the title says, ESRI has my admiration for this effort. A point further reinforced by a layer they are offering in the example map: U.S. National Grid!  Ya, it's all those red boxes you are seeing in the example viewer - the very same ones noted on Friday that the "with it" folks at the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team are using to track Civil Air Patrol imagery. Hey, Google - are your Crisis Response folks paying attention?  Here are some links if your worker bees would like to know what's going on:

Lead graphic: Jeff Shaner,

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friendly Neighbor Friday: Analyze CAP Imagery and Help Out Victims of Hurricane Sandy

It's what any friendly neighbor would do - lend a hand when someone next door has experienced bad times. Given how small the world has become via the Internet, here's an opportunity to help your "neighbors" along the East Coast of the United States.

Following Sandy's arrival onshore, the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) has been busy flying photo missions to help document the extent of the damage. These photo collects are then used to create initial damage estimates and a plan for the deployment of recovery resources by FEMA and State Emergency Management organizations.  As of this writing, there are now 882 photos in this collection, which has been linked to a "grid map" based on, you guessed it, the U.S. National Grid

Because of the large volume of photos being collected, and the limited number of official bodies available to analyze and classify the images, this process needs help. As a result, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team is sponsoring an effort to pre-screen the photos by using the power of the crowd. It's a simple, easy and effective process that pretty much anyone can participate in. Here's how it works: 

1. Go to this web page:
2. Click: "More images from Sandy" along the top bar.
3. Click on each photo to see a larger view.
4. Rate the damage you see by clicking the colored bar below each photo using the following guidelines: 

  • Green: Light or No Damage: shingles or doors missing.
  • Yellow: Moderate Damage: moderate to heavy damage to one or more structures, roads, and infrastructure. Some structures may be only lightly damaged.
  • Red: Severe Damage: heavy damage to multiple structures, or if the area is still flooded.

5. Move on to the next photo and repeat.  

Clicking "grid" along the top bar will open a map that when "zoomed in on", will deliver a sense of the situation - the individual judgments about building damages are aggregating to the map from the pictures. The south shores of New Jersey are almost entirely covered by green squares (grids), whereas the Connecticut coastline is almost entirely covered by red squares.  This map feature currently does not work in IE, so make sure you fire up Chrome or Firefox if you want to have a look-see of the map.

Comment: Kudos to all involved - great use of volunteers to create an output that has value on many levels!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Endangered Weather Satellites

Prior to Hurricane Sandy coming onshore, the New York Times offered an article highlighting the importance of weather satellites. Specifically considered were the many ways data from these platforms are used to take precautionary measures that limit damage, such as evacuating individuals from low lying areas, structurally securing businesses and residences, and moving big items like ships and construction equipment out of harm's way. Unfortunately, without any change in funding or plans, the United States "eyes-in-the-sky" for weather may go blind for a period of time around 2017.  For more, see the article below:

U.S. Satellite Plans Falter, Imperiling Data on Storms (New York Times, October 26, 2012)

Comment: Perhaps the single biggest hurdle when it comes to the introduction of geospatial technologies in the Emergency Services Sector (ESS), is the ability to quantify the extent of the return on investment. It's a problem faced by virtually any program that has a safety slant to it. Leadership at the top has to be able to see the vision and understand the outcome of those actions without having the statistics at the outset to defend a move to spend money. An example of that situation is what happened in the Naval Aviation community post WWII. With nothing more than a sense that situation could be improved, the leadership of the Naval Aviation community worked to establish a safety program to oversee standards and training in the community.  The results were remarkable - Naval aviation went from crashing THOUSANDS of aircraft per year - to low two digits. With that track record in place, the validity of the program became quantifiable, and the financial value understood.  As a result, today Aviation Safety is a priority program in the Naval Aviation community

The point of the story above?  What is so troubling about the potential loss of the weather view-from-above is that the value has already been clearly defined. Literally, billions of dollars are saved during disaster events like Sandy by having advanced warning and the ability to effectively track these types of storms. Yet, the nation faces this circumstance and the outcry is muted. Consequently, it would seem this capability is not seen as a priority program.

On reflection, Emergency Managers, you might want to think about giving your weather satellite a hug before it's too late.

Lead picture: NOAA