Monday, March 31, 2014

Rock, Rattle and Roll in Southern California - With an Earthquake Map

Best way to tell the story of the recent earthquakes in Southern California? Well, from review of websites sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earthquake Hazards Program and the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS), looks like the answer is a map. And if you want granularity - the Southern California Earthquake Data Center is as good as it gets. Get the picture by checking out "Recent Earthquakes":

Comment: I often find myself on the upper floors of a hotel building in Tokyo that is swaying around as one of the frequent small earthquakes rolls through the area. It gives me pause, but seldom real concern - unlike the experience of waking up in the middle of the night during the mid-1980's in Southern California to the clanking of the pull handles on the dresser that was in the room. I can tell you first hand what it is like to run into the street wearing nothing more than a t-shirt and underwear and seeing many of my neighbors doing the same thing!  Best of luck SoCal with what might be headed your way. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Maps Lead to Other Predictions: The Future of Law Enforcement?

Last month The Verge ran an article on efforts underway in Chicago to go beyond using maps to predict crime hot spots. When predictive maps are combined with the locations of individuals thought most likely to commit crimes, police work truly changes from reactive to anticipatory. Although touted by some as the future of law enforcement, it's a development that raises a slew of legal and ethical questions. Thus, for your consideration across this weekend:

(The Verge, February 19, 2014)

Have a Great Weekend!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

U.S. Infrastructure Crumbling - Emergency Services Sector Pays For It

"Everything is Somewhere"

The Emergency Management and Response Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC) sponsored by the U.S. Fire Administration recently began a series of short info items on America's infrastructure in their always informative "The InfoGram". First point of consideration - the poor state of the nation's infrastructure and the negative impact that situation has on the Emergency Services Sector (ESS). Noteworthy in their review: "The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave an overall grade of a D+ in the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure and estimated $3.6 trillion dollars would need to be invested by 2020 to bring the necessary improvements." More below:

Comment: Kudos to EMR-ISAC for taking on a topic often overlooked by the nation's ESS.  However, one request as the series unfolds - please remember there is one infrastructure that brings meaning and understanding to all other infrastructure  - the National Spatial Data Infrastructure!

Graphic: Geospatial Information and Technology Association

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Interior Geospatial Emergency Management System (IGEMS)

On March 3rd, the Department of the Interior (DOI) turned off its Natural Hazards Support System (NHSS) and turned on a replacement: Interior Geospatial Emergency Management System (IGEMS).  According to the IGEMS informational website, enhancements over NHSS include:   
IGEMS incorporates all of the data and functionality contained in NHSS, it also provides added information including hurricane tracks and current wind conditions. Since IGEMS utilizes the latest software and technology it provides a richer functionality, including a locate ability, and a richer user experience that supports mobile devices like tablets.
Consequently, IGEMS shows the potential for major natural disaster events: wildfires; earthquakes; wind, gale, flood, red flag, and other weather warnings; hurricanes; and volcanoes in a format suitable for mobile devices. Users can also view tide monitoring stations, current weather radar, and wind direction and strength, and select topographic, street map, or satellite imagery backgrounds.

Learn more at the links below:

Comment: As one of the web's first natural disaster viewers when it was released in 2003, NHSS had been in need of rebuild for the past several years. Kudos to DOI!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Police Mum on StingRay Use

If there was ever any doubt about the power of "Where", one need only consider what some local law enforcement agencies have been doing to obtain that information. And once again, it involves use of a "Where" technology that the nation's laws did not anticipate. Originally developed for use in anti-terrorism cases, "StingRay" cellphone tracking technology is now being used as the end run for warrants in traditional police work. More below (click here for graphic):

(ABC News 7 Denver, March 23, 2014)

(Wired, March 3, 2014)

(ACLU Northern California, March 13, 2014)

Comment: You're in a bad spot when you have a guy like me in the same camp with the American Civil Liberties Union in thinking the current use of this technology is a bad idea. It's not that there is anything inherently bad about the technology, it's that mission creep without established guidelines for transparency and accountability has allowed some in the law enforcement community to deploy this technology in a way that flies in the face of common sense. Ultimately, it won't be the manufacturer who will get a black eye out of this scenario, it will be law enforcement.

Graphic credit: Wall Street Journal

Monday, March 24, 2014

ESRI Updates Its Damage Assessment Template

ESRI recently announced an update to its Damage Assessment template for ArcGIS 10.2. The update leverages capabilities of ArcGIS Online and its Collector app to facilitate collection of data offline. Details can be found in the link below:

(ArcGIS Resources Blog, March 19, 2014)

Comment: Kudos to ESRI for continued efforts to improve and advance their geospatial product line in a way that supports the Emergency Services Sector.  Also of note is their commitment to fielding products with U.S. National Grid capability (note the gridding in the graphic above and in the examples offered with the featured post). And, the simple but effective offering of their sector focused products on their ArcGIS for Emergency Management website. Check it out.

Graphic credit: ESRI

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fanatic Friday: FEMA Releases Resource Typing Library Tool (RTLT)

Well, I've been sitting around waiting for someone to correct an oversight.  But since that hasn't happened, I'm once again going to have to be a fanatic about the use of GIS (or lack thereof) in the Emergency Services Sector. Point of concern for today - FEMA's recently released Resource Typing Library Tool (RTLT).  From one of FEMA's promotional items about the RTLT, here are a couple of the descriptive highlights:
The RTLT is an online catalog of national resource typing definitions and job titles/position qualifications. Definitions and job titles/position qualifications are easily searchable & discoverable through the RTLT. They can be viewed directly on the web page, downloaded in PDF format or directly used by third party software applications using the available Web Services application programming interface (API)
Nationally typed resources support a common language for the mobilization of resources prior to, during, and after major incidents. Resource users at all levels use these definitions to identify and inventory resources for capability estimation, planning, and for mobilization during mutual aid efforts.
Now if you would like to dig around in the RTLT and learn more, here are some links to get you started:

(FEMA Information Sheet, February 6, 2014)

Like I said in the beginning, I've been waiting for someone to correct an oversight. In this case it would be the RTLT hit the street as a product that completely ignores the reality of FEMA's own doctrine. NIMS and the NRF tell us how important "Situational Awareness" and "Common Operating Pictures" are, and yet the RTLT completely avoids any mention of the personnel who have the technical skills and training to create the products that make those concepts possible. A search of the RTLT using terms "mapping", "GIS", "remote sensing", and "imagery" returns zero responses. Seriously FEMA?!? One minute I see something that makes me think you guys are finally getting it, like when proposed standards for GIS personnel that were released last summer, and the next, something like this happens. 

As I write, the search for MH 370 is ongoing. At the core of that operation are GIS personnel who are developing everything from imagery leads to search patterns. But according to the RTLT, individuals like this aren't needed. A point of reflection, worthy of a weekend.

Hope It's a Great One!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Minority Report Glasses" Said to Debut Soon

Some stories are better seen than told. Video first to get the idea, then article if you are ready to contemplate the future of law enforcement.

(CBS SFO, February 4, 2014)

Comment: The video that accompanies the article is also worth your time. Provided you aren't on your way to "doing time" for crimes you have yet to commit.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New NOAA Product: Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map

After Hurricane Sandy produced some unexpected flooding results along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, initiatives by FEMA and others have gotten underway to update surge and flooding predictive geospatial products. As part of those efforts, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center (NHC) will be conducting a two-year trial period of a companion map product. According to a recently issued bulletin, the Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map will show:

  • Geographical areas where inundation from storm surge could occur; and
  • How high above ground the water could reach in those areas.

The map will be issued at the same time as the initial hurricane watch, and will be incorporated into the NHC website. Additional details can be found in the bulletins below or by visiting the NHC Storm Surge website:

(FEMA Bulletin, March 18, 2014)

(NOAA Info Bulletin)

Comment: With the winter we've had, it would be just like Mother Nature to show up with a wallop of a hurricane season (starts June 1st).  Kudos to NHC for this effort!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Webinar: Next Generation 9-1-1

Well, I'm in hot water with lots of folks because the last webinar I offered here quickly exceeded the event's technical capacity. Not to fear, I've been doing some arm twisting and have been promised a version on You Tube in the not so distant future. And with that being said, here comes another online opportunity on a very timely subject: Next Generation 9-1-1.

  • Background: The “State of 911” webinars are held every other month and were established to help the national transition to NG9-1-1. Federal agency representatives, 9-1-1 stakeholders, and state and local 9-1-1 professionals share presentations and participate in discussions to smooth the way for agencies currently in transition.
  • Up Next: Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) and the Regional Emergency Communications Coordination Working Groups (RECCWGs)
  • When: Thursday, March 27
  • Time: 11-12 PM Central
  • Registration: Required

Additional details and registration are available at the link below:

Comment: With nearly 40% of American homes now relying on something other than hard wired phones, Next Generation 9-1-1 will be key to solving the "where to send a response" issue in the years ahead. For more on this thought, find below a recent article reviewing the various issues:

(New York Times, January 17, 2014)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Disney Goes "All In" on Tracking Technology

Thought it was just big government and big telecoms who wanted to track your whereabouts? Nope, it's also big entertainment in the form of Mickey's Magic Kingdom. And, it's a high stakes gamble at that. More below:

(Bloomberg Businessweek, March 7, 2014)

Comment: Normally, I would say if this does anything to cut the wait time at "Pirates of the Caribbean", I'm all for it. But the concern would be, once all that seemingly innocent preference data is collected during your trip to Mickey's place, what are they going to do with it? Destroy it is the only correct answer.

Graphic credit: MSN

Friday, March 14, 2014 Friday - Email of the Week

Emails from folks out there who care are the kind I love to get. Here's one filled with lots of great info, received this week:

While reading through your site, I noticed you have a link to the U.S. Fire Administration website on
I wanted to introduce you to, an organization dedicated to Fire education and information ecosystem. Our mission is to provide fire education, public safety careers information and tools to the public at no cost. A few of these resources can be found here:
Fire Science education and training for current and future students:
An extensive “how to become” series, which includes careers such as firefighting, EMT, fire inspector, fire marshall, arson investigator and more:
A resources section with a database of fire department and academies and fire statistics by state:
Would you mind adding the link to our website on your resource page above (or similar page) to help this information reach those interested in fire education and public safety careers?
Fire Science Careers, Education and Degrees:
Thank you,
Matt Davis
Fire Science Online

Comment: Thanks Matt for all the great links. It's an honor to pass along this information. And, I'm in the process of developing a "Links" page where I'll make sure your information also gets noted.

Have a Great Weekend!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Featured Software: OpenQuake

Global Earthquake Model, or GEM, is "an international forum where organisations and people come together to develop, use and share tools and resources for transparent assessment of earthquake risk." Based in Italy, GEM has an impressive group of world-wide government and corporate sponsors and collaborators, and since the start of 2014 has been releasing a series of documents which support their free modeling software - OpenQuake. Review of this effort and latest developments are best brought to light by touring their website. Here are some links to get you started: 

Comment: Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is the core of this distinguished effort to save 1,000's of lives a year. Kudos to GEM on many levels for realizing that open software and data are key to being effective in the world of emergency preparedness and response.

Graphic credit: GEM  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Microsoft's Cloud Based GPS Effort is Looking for Developers

Building on efforts dating from at least 2011, in late February Microsoft announced it was expanding efforts to create an alternative to satellite only GPS.  This one will be much closer to earth - it will be cloud based, and Microsoft is looking for developers to help bring it to an app near you.  More below:

(The Register, February 24, 2014)

Comment: Couple of thoughts on this one -
  1. While this topic may seem over the top for some, it is important from the standpoint of understanding the Geospatial Revolution continues to expand in a variety of ways, and ultimately, anything that enhances society's ability to use and communicate "where" will be of benefit to the Emergency Services Sector.
  2. For those who would like more details about this effort, the article contains a number of hyperlinks to background materials - don't miss them.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

FAA Takes Missile - Drones OK for Now

You just knew it was going to happen sooner or later - somebody was going to formally challenge the FAA's ban on commercial drone operations in U.S. airspace. And sure enough, that challenge came in the form of a court case which contested a $10,000 fine levied against businessman Ralph Pirker for using a drone to record aerial views of the University of Virginia Medical Center. In a ruling handed down late last week - the FAA was the loser.  More below:

(CNN, March 7, 2014)

(NTSB, Office of Administrative Law Judges, March 6, 2014)

(FAA News Update, March 7, 2014)

Comment: As could be expected, the decision was no more announced and the FAA filed an immediate appeal to the full National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Making the entire situation another example of government's failure to keep up with advances in technology. A truly sad, sad deal. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Free Webinar: Google's Crisis Response Team

As a way to expand delivery of information on the use of geospatial information and related systems in support of the Emergency Services Sector, the Minnesota Geospatial Information Office's Emergency Preparedness Committee will be sponsoring its first of a series of online presentations this coming Friday. Featuring Minnesota's own Pete Geincke of Google, the presentation will focus on that company's past, present and future efforts in support of emergency preparedness and response. Basic event below:

  • Webinar Title: Google's Crisis Response Team
  • Date: Friday, March 14, 2014
  • Time: 10:00 AM-11:00 AM Central
  • Connection (Google Hangout)

There is no need to register for this event. However, those who would like to attend should check in advance for any firewall or software issues related to using Google Hangouts. Details are provided in the event bulletin below:

Comment: Home town boy done good - looking forward to the presentation!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Feuding Friday: Everybody Knows That

It sure would seem like that as mankind embraces advances in technology, the potential for bickering and conflict would decline. Unfortunately, it looks like what started with stone throwing and pointed stick tossing 100,000 years ago, just mutates into something else. Check it out: 

There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight: Just as Google was attempting to put out a couple of brush fires of negative reaction to its Google Glass product, one of its converted ignited a firestorm of controversy in a bar named after an incendiary concoction:

(c|net, February 18, 2014)

(Reuters, February 25, 2014)


(CBS Bay Area, March 4, 2014)

What Goes Around, Comes Around: By now we should all be aware the men and women in blue have been deploying a wide range of technologies to track and record the actions of the rest of society. Properly crafted as a crime prevention/solving tool, probably a good thing. However, when the shoe is on the other foot, things can turn ugly:

(New York Daily News, February 19, 2014)

(AP, February 18, 2014)

Live mas: Huh? What the NSA SHOULD NOT do, Taco Bell SHOULD do:

(Mobile Commercial Daily, February 12, 2014)

Father Knows Best: Who knows best how to save the world? Is it Google with its plan to launch balloons to bring the Internet to places without, or Facebook with its plan to use drones to do the same thing?

(Wired, March 5, 2014)

A Nod is as Good as a Wink: The map has been the focal point of land grab plotting and scheming since time immemorial. Unfortunately, looks like the invention of GIS did nothing to change that:

(National Geographic, March 5, 2014)

Here's Hoping You Find a Weekend Without Conflict!

Photo credits:
  • Caveman: Geico
  • Tacos: Taco Bell
  • Putin: Business Insider

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Increased Efforts to Stop Coastal Flooding

Live in a coastal area? Got flooding? Well, FEMA recently made two announcements about efforts to help communities with those issues.  First, NOAA has trimmed its Coastal Community Planning and Development Course back to just two days. Designed to help local elected officials and related personnel, coastal resource managers, business leaders, developers, realtors, land use and hazard mitigation planners, floodplain and emergency managers, and concerned community residents and groups assess environmental, economic, and social consequences of development and redevelopment in their coastal communities, the course leverages the power of a visualization tool called CanVis.  Second, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced efforts to re-map the Northeast states most impacted by that disaster. In addition to helping communities better understand local decisions impacting the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS), it is anticipated the modernized maps will: "correct mapping errors affecting property owners and provide more accurate and accessible CBRS data for planning coastal infrastructure projects, habitat conservation efforts, and flood risk mitigation measures." More below:

(FEMA Bulletin, March 5, 2014)

Comment: As the nation continues the trend toward high density urbanization of its seaboards, efforts like these will be key to stopping multi-billion dollar damage bills for future coastal events. Let's hope community leaders and other decision makers leverage these opportunities to head off the reality that: "Failing to plan, is planning to fail". 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Google's New World - 3D Mapping With Your Phone

What if the sensor package in your pocket or purse known as a smartphone was able to accurately map your surroundings in 3D space as you move through it?  The possibilities are endless for where that can go, and Google thinks it's possible. Welcome to Project Tango.

(News and Observer, March 2, 2014)

Comment: Now extend the "What if" to the Emergency Services Sector (ESS). A world where every responder could map his or her surroundings in 3D as he or she moves through it. Or, where others could create in advance, renderings of the interior spaces of buildings that could then be displayed on Google Glass or similar Heads Up Displays when needed by ESS workers. It's going to be a whole New World.

Photo credit: