Friday, May 30, 2014

Remembering Johnston: 125 Years Later

On May 31, 1889, an earthen dam upstream from Johnstown, PA collapsed giving way to a wall of water that would kill more than 2,200 people as it moved through the valley below. In response to that event, five days later on June 5, 1889, the American Red Cross (ARC) deployed to a major disaster for the first time. In the five months that followed, the ARC and what would later become its ancillary components remained onsite providing a range of aid that today would be thought of as the mission of FEMA. To learn more about the flood and this seminal event in the history of the American Red Cross, use the links below:


(Johnstown Flood Museum)

Have Great Weekend!

Photo credit: National Park Service

Thursday, May 29, 2014

SUMMIT - GIS Modeling Software for Exercises

To date, the Sandia National Laboratory's Standard Unified Modeling, Mapping and Integration Toolkit (SUMMIT) has only seen action as part of major exercises. However, logic would suggest that this software which uses location based modeling to deliver realistic "mapped" feedback to exercise participants as a scenario play is developed, is probably headed to a local exercise near you, sooner than you think. Informational links below tell the story:

(DHS, July 2013)

(Sandia National Labs PPT)

Comment: Truly great to see this development. Kudos to Sandia!

Photo credit: DHS

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Google Car Unveiled: No Steering Wheel

This has been a fun one to watch develop - the fusion of location technologies, sensors, and that moving collection of mechanical parts known as the automobile. Now Google has taken the next logical step;  manufacture of vehicles without traditional controls beyond "on" or "off". Hang on, because you're along for the ride:

(The New York Times, May 27, 2014)

Comment: Want more? Check out these previous posts on EPC Updates:

(EPC Updates, March 12, 2012)

Photo credit: Google

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

FEMA CIO Sees Value in Paper Maps

Speaking at the 2014 Federal Office Systems Exposition (FOSE) Conference held in Washington, DC, May 13-15, FEMA Chief Information Officer, Adrian Gardner, told attendees something they didn't expect to hear at an event devoted to the latest and greatest technologies - in disaster situations some old technologies still have a substantial edge over new technologies. According to one report filed by FCW, Gardner's comments during a panel discussion included:
"Imagine 30 people trying to make a decision while standing around looking at a map on the same iPad or the same computer," he said. While geographic information system developers might consider paper maps to be passé, sometimes they offer the best utility in a field situation, Gardner said.
(, May 14, 2014)

Comment: Hallelujah! Somebody at FEMA actually thinking about paper maps for disaster response - wait - let me pinch myself. Nope, I'm not dreaming. Fantastic! Following up on that thought, here are three great examples of how to be prepared using this tried and true way of doing business (pssst - don't tell anyone, but they also incorporate the #2 idea on FEMA's Think Tank discussion board - U.S. National Grid as the Response Language of Location):  

(Free maps, nation wide)

(Free maps, statewide)

(Free mapbooks, statewide)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Another Simple Thought for Memorial Day

November 20, 1943: Marines take cover among the dead and wounded on Red Beach 3, Tarawa, during day one of the four day battle for the 2 mile long, 800 yard wide atoll. U.S. causalities against a Japanese force that fought to nearly the last man: 3,797 (1,696 dead, 2,101 wounded). A film from the battle was considered so controversial that its release had to be approved by President Roosevelt. Photo credit: US Navy/Wikipedia.

Freedom Is Not Free

Friday, May 23, 2014

Guarding the Gates of Freedom

As the nation pauses this Memorial Day weekend to remember those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom, I offer for your consideration a story about a threat which - although lacking the physical danger of battles past - could cause us to loose our freedom nonetheless. Guarding the gates of freedom is never simple:

Never Forgetting a Face
(New York Times, May 17, 2014)

Have an Enjoyable Memorial Day Weekend!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Aviation is a Focus of Latest USNG Training in Florida

Recent U.S. National Grid (USNG) training for Florida first responders had aviation integration as one of its points of focus. Reports indicate aircrew were able to easily learn the system, and quickly appreciated the value of USNG when working with Search and Rescue (SAR) and medevac personnel on the ground. Story below:   

(Ocala Star Banner, May 21, 2014)

Comment: According to the National Search and Rescue Committee's Land Search and Rescue Addendum to the National Search and Rescue Supplement to the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue Manual, both ground and aviation personnel need to be conversant in USNG in order to be properly trained and effective SAR responders (see page 4-51). However, due to expense, aviation units are seldom brought into training efforts. So big kudos to organizers of this event for making that happen - way to go!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Text-to-911 Update

True to their word, on May 15, 2014, the nation's four major cellphone providers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint) began providing a Text-to-911 capability on their systems coast to coast. Unfortunately, because local call answering centers (PSAPs - Public Safety Answering Points) must be configured to handle this type of communication, the impact was not immediately noticeable for John Q. Public. Links below explain the situation:

(MPR, May 20, 2014)

Comment: Additional background information from May 2013 is available this blog: One Year Out: Text-to-911. And, if you missed it in the CNET article or on the FCC website, the link below goes to a list of locations where Text-to-911 will work as of May 16, 2014:

(FCC, May 16, 2014)

Graphic credit: CNET

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

IndoorAtlas: Indoor Mapping Using a Building's Magnetic Footprint

Despite billions spent by the combined forces of industry, educational institutions, and government, no one has been able to come up with an effective, cost efficient, and universal answer for GPS quality location information inside buildings. Now, through a eureka moment, filing of 16 patents, and a ramped-up commercial effort that took its first tentative steps back in 2012, Finnish firm IndoorAtlas appears positioned to lay claim to the Holy Grail of "Where". The magnetic footprint of the building is the key. More information below (Video is of marginal quality and 8:33 in length, but well worth your time if you want details. First video in the article is only 33 seconds long and brings home the idea if you want the quick version):

(NYT Bits, May 18, 2014)

Comment: Obviously, huge implications for the Emergency Services Sector - for everything from EMS response to firefighting. If the realities of this technology match the sales pitch, this one is going to be a game changer going forward.

Graphic credit:

Monday, May 19, 2014

GPS Equiped Pill Bottle Leads to Fatal Shootout

As reported by numerous sources early last year, pharmacies across the nation have been placing GPS equiped pill bottles in their drug inventory. On Friday, May 16, one such bottle led to the pursuit and fatal shooting of a drugstore robber in New York City. Details below: 

(, May 16, 2014)

Comment: When the story of GPS devices in pill bottles hit the wire last year, I was left wondering if there was more hype than reality to the story (see: GPS Tracking Devices in Pill Bottles). No more wondering now. Congrats to NYPD for this revolutionary and effective use of tracking technology. For those who would like to explore more on this subject, see the links below: 

(COPS, April 2012)

(Purdue Pharma)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Figure It Out Friday III

I've never been entirely comfortable with that III thing. You know - like Thurston Howell the III.  When I'm around a III, I always feel inferior - like they are something special, and I'm not. A point which leads me to tell you it's Opposite Day. Because today, there's nothing special about my latest feeble attempt to get your brain to conjure up answers to a bunch of half-baked, rehashed clues. Check it out - and no help from your butler: 

Truly Hope You Figure Out at Least Three Ways to Have a Great Weekend!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

9/11 Memorial Museum Officially Opens Today

On many levels 9/11 was a disaster of epic proportions. Although it continues to shape the world we live in, today will be special. Just a handful on months short of the 13th anniversary of the attack on the United States, the 9/11 Memorial Museum will ceremonially open beneath where the World Trade Center Towers once stood. Tributes worthy of the memorial can be found below:

(The New York Times, May 15, 2014)

Comment: Near the top of the NYT article there is an interactive feature called: A New Story Told at Ground Zero. Very well done - don't miss it! 

Photo credit: The New York Times

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Webinar: DHS Geospatial Infrastructure (GII) - May 27th, 1:00 PM EDT

The partnership between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Geospatial Management Office and the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS Foundation (NAPSG) is back at with another online training session on: DHS Geospatial Infrastructure (GII). According to the event bulletin:
This NAPSG virtual training exercise on the GII will demonstrate how the Homeland Security and Defense communities leverage the GII to manage geospatial content, search and discover geospatial content, create maps, share maps and geospatial content with others.
Here are the details for this no cost event:
  • Webinar Title: DHS Geospatial Infrastructure (GII)
  • Date: Tuesday, May 27, 2014
  • Time: 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM EDT (12:00 PM-1:30 PM Central)
  • Cost: Free - but space is limited, so register early
  • More details: Click here
  • To Add to Calendar: Click here

Comment: No joke - register early if you want to attend. Last time they ran a similar event, it was fully booked two days after it was announced!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Laying Down the Law: Minnesota v. StingRay

It's not often that politicians on both sides of the aisle, in both houses, can agree on an issue to the extent that only one legislator out of 177 votes against passing the law being offered. But that's exactly what happened recently in Minnesota when the state's law makers took up the topic of cell phone tracking through use of location exploitation devices such as Stingray (See: Police Mum on StingRay Use). Yesterday, differences in previously passed Senate and House bills were resolved, and the new law should be headed to Governor Dayton's desk for signature before the end of the month. More below:

(Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 5, 2014)

(MinnPost, April 25, 2014)

Comment: Short and sweet. 176-1 says it all.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Monday, May 12, 2014

Texting Police - Arriving Soon at Crisis Negotiations

Times are a changing. To the list of indicators, add police using texting to negotiate with suspects. Recently, a crisis negotiator with the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety found himself in uncharted territory when texting with a suicidal robbery suspect was the only way left to keep a bad situation from going ugly. More below:

(Washington Post, May 11, 2014)

Comment: Who would have thunk? Good to hear the FBI has now added this technology to their training curriculum, and congratulations to Sergeant Wells for being able to think outside the box!

Photo credit: AP

Friday, May 9, 2014

Considering the EMP Threat: No Electricity - For Years

It's a topic military planners and hardware designers and have known about for decades. The potential havoc EMP, or ElectroMagnetic Pulse, could create for equipment of the nation's Armed Forces. If an enemy were able to fry the electronics of tracking systems, radios, ships, tanks, missiles and airplanes through a high altitude nuclear weapon detention, the United States would be left defenseless. Consequently, hardening against this type of event has been a procurement standard for a variety of military items for many years. Now, Congress is beginning to ponder how to bring that same level of protection to the nation's civilian infrastructure. Opening remarks video from yesterday's hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies sets the stage - links below it start the discussion.

(Washington Free Beacon, May 8, 2014)

(Subcommittee Topic Website)

(Homeland Security News Wire, April 15, 2014)

Comment: Point to ponder over the weekend: All that stuff around the house that won't work for years due to either no electricity or fried electronics. No web, no car, no lights, no refrigeration, and no heat.

Have a Great Pioneer Weekend!  

Graphic: Wikipedia

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Q: When Will the White House Be Seashore Property?

A: When global sea level rises 23 feet. A sea level change far below the potential inundation level if all the planet's ice were to melt, which would generate a rise of 216 feet. Because of the far reaching global impact events like rising seas could have, the Department of Defense has started to consider implications of various climate change scenarios. Although a topic discussed in military circles for the past several years, release of the Quadrennial Defense Review 2014 earlier this spring brought the topic of potential disasters resulting from climate change into focus for many. Background article and interactive maps below:
(The Weather Channel, February 18, 2014)

Comment: No doubt a very controversial topic. Front page news on yesterday's New York Times was the recent release of a White House report which indicates climate change is already underway and an increased number of disasters will be a result. A development certain to lead critics to charge the report and publicity are nothing more than a political agenda wrapped in marginal science. But regardless of which side in this debate eventually proves correct, there should be one point on which both sides can agree at this time. It's encouraging to see the topic is being added to 100's of other contingency plans in the U.S. Armed Forces "what if" play book - where hopefully it remains unused, but eliminates the issue of, "Failing to plan, is planning to fail".

Graphic credit: National Geographic

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

News Group Joins Fight With FAA Over Drones

Last week the LA Times ran a piece on how the FAA's ban on the commercial use of drones was becoming increasingly untenable. Yesterday, the other shoe dropped when a collation of more than 16 major news organizations that includes such heavy weights as The New York Times Company, the Tribune Company and The Washington Post joined the fight against the FAA's current prohibition on the use of these platforms for news gathering.  More below: 

(LA Times, May 1, 2014)

(Associated Press, May 6, 2014)

Comment: FEMA, sure hope you are paying attention because if you're not, here's what's coming once the press gets these things fired up: a repeat of the Katrina PR debacle at the nation's next big disaster. I can see it all so clearly. Instead of an administration being caught flatfooted by the reality of 24/7 news coverage, it will be an administration being caught flatfooted by the continuous hovering news feed. And despite all the no-fly restrictions that will get slapped up, you can still count on these eyes in the sky providing plenty of embarrassing footage - because that's what news organizations get paid to do.   

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Ignoring Serious Risk: Using an App to Find a Stolen Smartphone

The good thing about apps that can help you to find a stolen smartphone: you can find your smartphone. The bad thing about apps that can help you find a stolen smartphone: you can find your smartphone - a fact which makes police worried GPS sleuthing could go very wrong for anyone inclined to play Sherlock Holmes. Below for the points of concern:  

(New York Times, May 3, 2014)

Comment: I get that the police may sometimes be slow in their response to a personally "traumatic" event like a stolen smartphone. However, on any given day there may be bigger fish to fry, and eventually law enforcement will do what it can to recover stolen property, particularly if that property has a known good location. Don't even think twice about this one - a search that could lead you to something much bigger and badder than just a thief with a stolen smartphone  - isn't very smart!

Monday, May 5, 2014

ALPR Discussion Expands

Over the past several weeks, three significant articles have appeared in the popular press highlighting different aspects of the two-edge sword that is Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPR). Each of these discussions has addressed a different issue: IRS use of the technology, potential violations of citizen's rights, and efforts to keep the police from talking about the technology and associated data practices. Those stories and more, below:

(Bloomberg, April 16, 2014)

(Products, Vigilant Website)

Comment: Although this technology clearly has the potential to benefit the "common good", that will only be the case going forward if it is used in a way that meets two standards: transparency and accountability. Short of that, and lacking robust legislative efforts to address the related individual rights issues, the Law Enforcement community has a public relations time bomb ticking in its midst.

Graphic credit: Vigilant Solutions

Friday, May 2, 2014

Top Five Friday: March 2014

In acknowledgement that this blog covers a wide range topics with writing skill that varies similarly, I've decided to try something different on the first Friday of the each month. Based on hit count, I'll post what this site's readers thought were the top five reads in the month that was two months back. A time-frame selected to allow posts to adequately age. So with that intro out of the way, and in case you missed them, here we go with the top five for March 2014:   

1.  Interior Geospatial Emergency Management System (IGEMS), March 26, 2014

I Truly Hope Your Weekend is a Top Five Adventure!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dakota County Leads Metro: GIS Data Now Available for Free

In March of this year, Commissioners of Dakota County Minnesota voted to make that county's geospatial data available for free. As such, the county joined the growing ranks of governments across the nation that have made a business decision to give away something for which they had previously charged significant sums. Reasoning behind this dramatic change for one of the oldest and most progressive geospatial programs in the nation can be found below:

(Dakota County GIS News, Summer 2014)

Comment: As noted in the Twin Cities GECCo After Action Report/Improvement Plan from May 2012, an accurate metro-wide Common Operating Picture for the region's Emergency Services Sector will not be possible until geospatial data across the region is free of onerous legal restrictions and/or prohibitive fees. Thus, by being the first county in the metro to "liberate" their data, the Commissioners of Dakota County have taken a giant step toward making the Twin Cities region a safer place for all. Standing Ovation!