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Geospatial Lessons Learned from Disasters Webinar - October 6, 11:15 AM CDTOpen in a New Window

As part of the Department of Interior's monthly webinar series, I will be presenting this coming Monday. Here are the details for this no cost event:
  • Webinar Title: Hurricanes, Floods, Fires and other Disasters: Geospatial Lessons from the Front Lines
  • Date: Monday, October 6, 2014
  • Time: 11:15 AM - 12:15 PM CDT (To Livestream this event, please join 5-10 minutes early to avoid technical difficulties.)
  • Cost: Free 
  • Full details to include connection information: Click here

Comment: To my readers I regret the current disruption in the publication schedule for this blog.  A death in family has been a life changing event which has precluded a daily note.  I now expect EPC Updates to return to its normal schedule on Monday, October 13th.  Thank you for understanding.


    EPC Updates Off-LIne This WeekOpen in a New Window

    EPC Updates will remain off-line the week of September 22nd due to unanticipated personal circumstances.


    A Moment of SilenceOpen in a New Window

    Commences at 8:46 AM Eastern

    Lest We Forget


    Fire Hydrants to the RescueOpen in a New Window

    Realizing the lowly fire hydrant is one of the few things that can survive a disaster intact, the University of Missouri Extension has come up with a plan to leverage that circumstance for response purposes. Read below:

    (University of Missouri Extension, August 27, 2014)

    Taking the story above one step further, a firefighter in Florida has an idea about how to maximize the value of such efforts:

    (USNG Florida)

    Comment: Got Grid?


    American Public Unplugged From Indoor Cell Phone Tracking RealityOpen in a New Window

    If there was ever proof positive there is a disconnect between the public's belief's about what cell phone tracking technology can do, and reality, the latest survey by the Find Me 911 Coalition is it. 66% of survey respondents errantly believe a cell phone when used inside a building can provide location information sufficiently accurate to bring an emergency response to the correct address. According to Jamie Barnett, Director of the Find Me 911 Coalition and former Chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, “Unfortunately, the carriers have chosen cheaper, less-effective location technologies, and people are dying because emergency responders can’t find them."  Details below:

    (GPS World, 26 August 2014)

    Comment: With each passing year, more and more Americans have unplugged their hard wired phone and have come to rely on a cell phone as their only phone, thereby increasing the significance of this reality gap over time. Kudos to the Find Me 911 Coalition for its efforts to bring this issue into the public's attention.


    Blimps Over BaltimoreOpen in a New Window

    We've been tuned into this story for the past couple of years. Now, what were once conceptual discussions about using lighter-than-air craft to protect the nation's capital and surrounding East Coast cities, has become approaching reality. Later this year two JLENS (Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System) aerostats will be sent aloft from the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, and privacy watchdogs are not happy.

    (Washington Post, September 3, 2014)

    Comment: The privacy issue has bubbled to the top as predicted, and my opinion about that circumstance remains unchanged.  See: 

    (EPC Updates, July 29, 2013)

    Photo credit: U.S. Army


    First Friday Top Five: July 2014Open in a New Window

    Hard to believe isn't it? The kids are already back in school and once again it's the first Friday of the month. Which means winter is just around the corner (at least in Minnesota) and it's time to review the top five posts for the month that's two back. So while you are taking a gander at the suggested reading list, I'll be making sure my snow-blower is still working after having three months off....

    1. ) DoD to Use Open Source Mapping for Humanitarian Crisis Response Missions, July 28

    Here's Hoping Your Weekend Is a Fun Filled Recess From Work!


    FEMA Disaster ReporterOpen in a New Window

    According to the home page for FEMA's crowd sourcing app Disaster Reporter: 
    The purpose of the FEMA Disaster Reporter is to crowdsource and share disaster-related information for events occurring within the United States, allowing citizens, first responders, emergency managers, community response & recovery teams, and others to view and contribute information on a publicly accessible map.
    To check it out, use the link below:

    Comment: Kudos to FEMA for making this app available. Hopefully, as time goes forward app use will increase substantially beyond the current "All Time" number of mapped reports shown above.


    APCO Panel Warns About GIS Ignorance Ahead of Next GenerationOpen in a New Window

    According to a panel at the recent Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) national conference, 911 professionals are typically lacking in their understanding of GIS. With older E9-1-1 systems that circumstance was tolerable. However, with cut over to NG9-1-1 systems, there are going to be big problems ahead. 

    (Urgent Communications, September 2, 2014)

    Comment: Everywhere you go, there I am. GIS, that is.


    Disasters and Emergencies: Lessons Learned from CIOsOpen in a New Window

    The caption under this story's lead photo says it all:
    For Orange County, Fla., CIO Rafael Mena, who has more experience responding to hurricanes than many, he learned not to underestimate the importance of GIS -- a tool that helps officials see what’s happening even if they’re confined to an emergency operations center.
    For more, see the link below:

    (Government Technology, August 29, 2014)

    Comment: This is a great article that drives home the point disaster preparedness requires a unique way of thinking about things. Three key take aways:

    1. When a disaster hits, its too late to "get prepared".
    2. Relationships you develop before a disaster are crucial to successfully managing the unexpected events that make a disaster, a disaster.
    3. Have a plan for ramping up operations using outside assets.


    Fired Weekend: Labor Day 2014Open in a New Window

    I had the above note waiting for me when I sat down at my computer this morning to write today's post. Oh, well. Guess that means my Labor of Love has come to an end and I get a four-day weekend as a result. So....

    Here's Hoping YOUR Labor Day Weekend Has Employment on Both Ends!


    Too Dumb to Drive a Car? Help is On Its Way!Open in a New Window

    When a driverless car can venture onto Washington, DC streets, the technology has come a long way in a short amount of time.  Ready or not, driverless cars may be here sooner than you think.  Details of a recent spin around the nation's capital, and proposed Department of Transportation rule making that will support future development, can be found in the stories below.

    (, August 27, 2014)

    Comment: It would appear that with sensors and GPS, the fantasy of the past is going to be the reality of the future. And just in time for my kids to take away my car keys.... "Dad, YOU are not driving anymore unless YOU are on autopilot." Huh? Seriously though, I'm thinking that after reviewing the expanded version of the great graphic in the Post story, once these vehicles hit the streets in mass the World Health Organization is going to have another major theme to review in its ongoing study of: "Electromagnetic Fields and Public Health: Radars and Human Health".

    Photo credit:


    Earthquake Damage Report by DroneOpen in a New Window

    We've all seen them. Earthquake damage reports that are visual. Newspapers, magazines, TV or the Internet - the press giving us maps, photos, graphs, and videos. Now comes damage report by drone.

    (LA Times, August 26, 2014)

    Comment: Very interesting clip. If you need a reason not to go in a building that looks safe but hasn't been inspected after an earthquake, don't miss examination of the church facade found at 2:50. And, for proof that even modern buildings can have issues in "just" a moderate earthquake, check out the building at 3:57. All of this makes me think there is a future in earthquake damage report by drone!

    Graphic credit:


    FEMA Looking For Comments on Its New Flood Map Service CenterOpen in a New Window

    On the 19th of August, FEMA formally announced release of its new Flood Map Service Center (MSC). According to the announcement:
    The FEMA Risk MAP program is pleased to announce the successful launch of the newly redesigned FEMA Flood Map Service Center (MSC). In addition to a streamlined and intuitive user interface, the upgraded MSC provides a number of new features and benefits to the public.
    Importantly, the MSC is requesting feedback from the public on the site's layout and usability. Details below:

    (FEMA News Bulletin, August 19, 2014)

    Comments: Per feedback, here's a couple of quick first impressions.

    • Kudos to FEMA for working to improve delivery of the associated suite of products.
    • Product search engine does a nice job of pulling in all available items for an area location (city).

    • The geocoder for street addresses needs improvement - my Minnesota street address defaulted to Missouri instead of offering choices.
    • Placement of the MSC inside the standard FEMA web layout creates confusing and distracting top and lower borders/menus.
    • MAP Center?  How about placing the interactive map on the home page?

    • Find in the header of site's MSC map search interface the following: "To find your flood map, enter an address, a place, or a set of longitude/latitude coordinates (emphasis added)." REALLY FEMA? How about also offering a search based on the U.S. National Grid? Try this. And, several versions of the code are available for free so there is no excuse except institutional inertia gone bad.


    Ferguson Brings Calls For Police Body CamsOpen in a New Window

    Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri have brought focus to the discussion about body camera use by police officers. And oddly, it is one of those rare times when virtually everyone is saying the same thing: The technology is a win-win solution that could go a long way toward keeping similar events from happening in the future. More below:

    (The Verge, August 18, 2014)

    Comment: Mark me down as another one in favor of this idea. While reviewing some of the stories about this topic that were run here in the past (see below), do the math on the cost of a body camera for every police officer in Ferguson (82 x $399), versus the cost of local law enforcement overtime, State Patrol and Missouri National Guard deployments, community ill will, and civil unrest damages. That one is not even close.

    (EPC Updates, January 15, 2014)

    (EPC Updates, January 24, 2012)

    Graphic Credit: Taser


    Frudge Report Friday: More Things I Did Not Know!Open in a New Window

    Read more here:


    Crime Satellites Coming SoonOpen in a New Window

    On June 11, 2014, the United States government relaxed restrictions on commercial satellite vendors so that they can now sell imagery with resolutions down to 25cm to non-military customers. If circumstances in the U.K repeat in the U.S, one of the beneficiaries of this development could be police departments across the nation. More below:

    (CNN, August 12, 2014)

    Comment: Perhaps. But there is nothing specifically special about collecting imagery with a satellite within the jurisdiction boundary of any one police department that can't be done at least as well with a properly configured aircraft. Where the advantage goes to satellites is when dealing with multi-jurisdictional or regional/national cases where a consistent and detailed view of a crime scene is not otherwise available.


    New Crowdsourcing Crime App Creates LOTS of ControversyOpen in a New Window

    Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Now developers of SketchFactor, an app which allows users to report their impressions about public safety in the urban environment, find themselves in hot water as charges of racism hit the internet and press. Details below:

    (Washington Post, August 12, 2014)

    Comment: History repeats itself.  As reported on January 9, 2012, MicroSoft was awarded a patent for a GPS feature which uses crime statistics to provide routing around known areas of trouble. That software soon became dubbed "Avoid Ghetto" technology. Thus, there should be little surprise that SketchFactor is now seeing the same reaction as what MicroSoft experienced. Here are a couple of examples from the past:

    (NPR, January 19, 2012)

    Graphic credit:


    San Jose Police Go "Smart" on DroneOpen in a New Window

    The San Jose Police Department (SJPD) recently made known it had purchased a Century Neo 660 radio-controlled six-rotor helicopter style drone or UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) in January 2014 using money from a Department of Homeland Security grant program. According to reports, the SJPD plans to use the UAS to support its bomb squad and during circumstances which pose immediate risk to the public safety like hostage or active shooter events. However, the department has also indicated they will not deploy the UAS until they have conducted a community outreach effort and developed "the policy and procedures that will provide an appropriate and practical framework to guide the operation of the UAS." Details below: 

    (, August 6, 2014)

    Comment: Wow - here's a department that's got its thinking straight on putting this important tool in the hands of its officers. Step One: Make sure the community knows what's taking place (aka transparency - although the ACLU has argued the SJPD hasn't been transparent enough). Step Two: Develop procedures and policy (head off claims of illegal activity). Step Three: Deploy the asset to help save lives. All too often the problem with departments which have previously jumped into the drone game is they have started with Step Three and then tried to work backwards. An approach certain to breed mistrust and suspicion with the public.    

    Photo credit: Century Helicopter Products


    FEMA Issues Updated National Preparedness Report and National Response FrameworkOpen in a New Window

    The past two weeks have been busy for FEMA with regard to operational documents. On August 6th, FEMA formally released its 2014 National Preparedness Report. Dated March 30, 2014, the 79-page report serves as an "annual status report on the Nation’s progress toward reaching the National Preparedness Goal of a secure and more resilient nation." Then on August 13th, FEMA announced release of the 2014 version of the National Response Framework (NRF). To facilitate understanding of the NRF and companion National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP), FEMA also announced they will be hosting a series of webinars in the coming weeks. Find below links to these documents and associated websites - all just in time for National Preparedness Month:

    (March 30, 2014, FEMA)

    (FEMA, August 13, 2014)

    Comment: Failing to plan, is planning to fail.  So kudos go out to FEMA for their continued efforts to plan for, and develop, operational structures and procedures that bring organization to the nation's Emergency Services Sector. Importantly for members of the geospatial community, key to effective use of geospatial technologies within this world is understanding mapping efforts need to fit in and respond to these structures and procedures - it's not the other way around.


    Freeway Friday: Devil Mobile, Yank Invasion, Johnny Cab, Turn Right, and Smash MapOpen in a New Window

    It's been a while since I last drove this blog over the edge. So if you dare, jump in, and strap in, for a mindless full-throttle tour of the latest absurd stuff to arrive. Parachute optional.

    Devil Mobile: In the "Devil Made Me Buy This Car" category, looks like Hyundai has come up with a way to use GPS to defeat speed cameras. Fortunately for law enforcement, the manufacturer's suggested retail price for the offending vehicle and its technology will keep it out of the hands of us commoners (at least for the time being). 

    (June 25, 2014,

    Yank Invasion: Last time there were a bunch of Yanks in the U.K., it had something to do with keeping a bunch of Germans out. Funny how history repeats itself as American "down on the farm know-how" techies will soon be pitted against the ever clever, mad-men precision mechanics from Deutschland in the latest Battle for Britain

    (The Telegraph, July 29, 2014)

    Johnny Cab: Speaking of driverless cars being "da bomb", turns out the FBI is more than a little bit concerned about that possibility. 

    (The Guardian, July 16, 2014)

    Turn Right: Apparently the driver of a Google Street View car  wasn't using Google Maps, GPS, or any other sort of navigation device (perish the thought - not even a map) when the vehicle caused a mell of hess after going the wrong-way down a one-way street in Little Rock, Arkansas. If it were me headed to the pokey for this offense, my defense would be "insanity" caused by driving around mindlessly for hours while knowing every bad driving move I made would be recorded in 360-degree panoramic photos. 

    (The Smoking Gun, August 7, 2014)

    Smash Map: Things have gone dirty in the race for "where" supremacy after it was discovered Esri has been developing a way to map all crashes of the aforementioned Google Street View cars. Concept currently under validation in New York City. 

    Here's Hoping Your Weekend is a Gas!

    Photo/Graphic Credits
    - Lead graphic:
    - The Devil:
    - Johnny Cab:


    TsunamiEvac-NWOpen in a New Window

    Earlier this summer, a Coffee Break Training bulletin produced by the National Fire Academy highlighted TsunamiEvac-NW, an ongoing effort which uses online mapping and smartphone technologies to help U.S. and Canadian residents of the Pacific Northwest to become better prepared to deal with tsunamis. In addition to providing individuals with a way to plan evacuation routes and map important landmarks, these interactive products by the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS) show active warnings and watches and provide information about tsunami safety precautions. Details below:

    (U.S. Fire Administration, June 25, 2014)

    Comment: Kudos to NANOOS.  As developer of this anticipatory product, they clearly believe the old saying: "An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure."


    FREE Webinar: Overview of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for GITA - Tuesday, August 19, 1:00 PM CentralOpen in a New Window

    In recognition that efforts underway to introduce Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in U.S. airspace over the next 18 months will have far ranging impact on the nation, two educational powerhouses in the geospatial community have combined forces to deliver their first ever joint webinar. Hosted by the Geospatial Information & Technology Association, the nation's leading infrastructure focused geospatial association, and delivered by the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS), the world's foremost association for professionals working with overhead geospatial sensors and related data, the webinar's stated objectives include:

    • An introductory discussion on UAS, as part of a larger robotics landscape, and the exciting evolution it brings to a well established existing mapping and remote sensing science and technology portfolio.
    • With the timeframe for such implementation being dependent on the finalization of applicable regulation by the FAA, Congress and the State Legislatures, this webinar will provide an update of the state of UAS at the FAA.
    • Outline of ASPRS’s cooperation with other stakeholder communities, societies and organizations – such as GITA in the development of an enabling environment supportive of the use of UAS in Geographic Information Science.

    Event details:

    • Date: Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    • Time: 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM Central 
    • Cost: Free
    • More details: Click here
    • Add to Calendar (use button on page that opens): Click here
    • How to Attend Webinar Instructions: Click here

    No need to register in advance, but space will be available on a first come, first serve basis. So don't be late if you want to attend!

    (No need to pre-register)

    Comment: Here's a great opportunity to begin building a foundation of understanding on a topic that will reshape availability and usability of geospatial imagery in the years ahead.  It's also a perfect starting point for members of the Emergency Services Sector who would like to gain insights into basic concepts and capabilities!  


    U.S. Earthquake Hazard Maps Updated by USGSOpen in a New Window

    The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently updated its National Seismic Hazard Maps for the lower 48. Last published in 2008, the 2014 maps were developed using new ground motion models and show 42 out of 48 states at risk for damage from ground shaking in the next 50 years. Areas at risk for significant damage remain primarily the West Coast and New Madrid Seismic Zone. However, when the new models and recent activity in those two areas were considered together, there is potential for greater damage than previously anticipated.  More below:

    (Click on: "Lower 48 Maps and Data")

    (Report download page)  

    Comment: I knew there was a reason I'm living in Minnesota besides the great appreciable chance of an earthquake! All kidding aside, even those states without significant direct threat from an earthquake should be planning for one. That's because in this day and age of interconnected infrastructure a significant event in one part of the country is going to have serious indirect impact on other parts. And, there will be a need for significant response and recovery assets from outside the quake zone. Of great concern in that regard is the New Madrid Seismic Zone through which a substantial amount of the nation's liquid energy (in pipelines) and a majority of nation's inland waterway commerce passes. Unfortunately, to date, much of the response planning for that area has only involved states which would be directly impacted.   


    Corporate Crime Solving via Smart Phone Location ServicesOpen in a New Window

    It's not just the police who are using smart phone location services to solve crimes. Legal departments for some major employers have now joined the mix. More below: 

    (Inside Counsel, July 28, 2014)

    Comment: Yup - a smart phone is a whole bunch more than just a phone. So if a corporation has sensitive material it truly needs to protect from wannabee James Bond types, smart phones of all types need to be checked at the building entrance. However, good luck enforcing that one.
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