Archive for February, 2010

Pacific Tsunami Depictions

Last night, an 8.8 magnitude quake hit off the coast of Chile (you can download the shakemap for use in Depiction here). There is now a tsunami warning in effect for much of the Pacific. Much of Hawaii, in particular, is evacuating, as waves are expected to start hitting in just a couple hours.

I’ve quickly built a depiction with possible tsunami inundation zones for Hilo Bay, where the waves are expected to hit first. I’m hoping to build others as the day goes on.

Click here to view the Hilo Bay depiction (requires Silverlight), and click here to download the depiction file (requires Depiction).

Click here to view the Honolulu depiction , and click here to download the depiction file (requires Depiction).

Click here to view the Kaluhui Bay, Maui depiction.

Import ALOHA Plume Now

Without knowing that Bharath is working on integrating ALOHA Plume models into Depiction, one of our users contacted the ALOHA developers and asked them how to export a model as a shapefile. This would allow him (and other users) to import that file into Depiction. The ALOHA team was glad to help, and gave these instructions:

To make your shapefile:
1. Run the scenario and display the threat zone in ALOHA.
2. Open MARPLOT and click on the lat/long where the chemical was released.
3. From the ALOHA Sharing menu in MARPLOT, choose Set Source Point. The ALOHA threat zone is now displayed in MARPLOT with the source point of the release at the lat/long location that you clicked on.
4. In MARPLOT, select the ALOHA threat zone.
5. In MARPLOT File menu, choose Export Overlay Objects.
6. On the Export dialog, choose the Shapefile format. Note that if you have selected both polygon objects (the threat zones) and point objects (the ALOHA source point and/or the ALOHA threat point) you will need to perform separate exports for each type of object.

This assumes that the user is already familiar with ALOHA and MARPLOT, and considering the number of requests we have gotten for this information, many Depiction users are.

The user was also kind enough to send a depiction he then created using this method. I have altered it a bit (changed colors to match the descriptions of red, orange and yellow zones and the icons to our plume icon) for posting a clip here.

ALOHA Plume imported as shapefiles in Depiction

Screen capture of ALOHA/MARPLOT files in Depiction

I hope this will make Depiction all the more useful for our Emergency Management users.

Happy Depicting!


Today’s webinar

Today’s webinar “Imagine, Depict, Share” went very well. I’ve seen a lot of Depiction webinars, and this one was definitely one of the best. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to run it again, live, but in the meantime we have it up online. Click here to either watch or download a recording of the webinar.

The webinar is a high-level overview of Depiction, looking many different examples of how Depiction can help people “imagine, depict and share” real and potential scenarios to improve their world. If you want to introduce someone to Depiction in a a very general way, and they have an hour or so to kill, this is a great resource.

ALOHA Integration with Depiction

The Depiction platform was created with the intention of allowing domain experts to integrate simulation models into custom elements to enable access of state-of-the-art simulations to the everyday user. The models in our initial retail version – such as flooding, runoff, plume distribution, evacuation routing, and signal propagation – demonstrate the power of simulations in visualizing ‘what if’ scenarios in the geographic domain.

The integration of an industry-standard simulation models, we believe, will enhance the usefulness of our modest tool. To that end, we have been eyeing programs such as ALOHA. An industry standard for modeling dispersion of hazardous chemicals, the ALOHA program was developed jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Available freely, this program has over 50,000 users in government and industry, and the accompanying CAMEO suite of software has had over 250,000 downloads since 2001.

A growing number of Depiction users have been requesting integration of ALOHA plume outputs with Depiction. We listened and now are working toward that… More >

Depiction Perspectives

We’ve added a new feature to our monthly newsletter. If you subscribe, you will now receive, in addition to news about product updates, webinars and the like, an article every month that examines the values, trends and, naturally, perspectives, that drive us here at Depiction, Inc. On our Perspectives page we’ll also be adding links to articles, interviews and books that have influenced Depiction or that otherwise mesh with our outlook.

Our first “Perspectives” piece is by our president & founder Mike Geertsen:

Our newest release, Depiction 1.2, is a terrific piece of software—but we hope it is more than that. When we founded Depiction, Inc., making great software was only a means to a greater end. We want to help people around the world be better equipped to overcome the challenges they face and to prepare for a better future. There are three important themes or trends that are core to this philosophy and that you will see expressed throughout our technology: empowering individuals, democratizing data and enabling collaboration.

Continue reading…

Nice to know people rave about us

Thanks to Jimmy Jazz for posting our press release at his excellent blog It was very cool to hear what he had to say:

Everyone that I know that’s used their software has raved about it (some folks, like @caroldn, get really excited when new versions come out). Later this week, they’ll be hosting a webinar on version 1.2 which is being released today, and I wanted to pass the information on it along to you – not because I use Depiction or am getting anything in return, but because people have told me that this is a useful tool, and it never hurts to learn about new tools.

Imagine. Depict. Share.

We’re announcing today the release of Depiction 1.2, a major step forward for Depiction.

Evacuating during disasters. Planning for urban growth. Ensuring the security of your neighborhood. Our communities face challenges like these every day—and a new software tool can help overcome them. Depiction, Inc. announced today the release of Depiction 1.2—desktop mapping, simulation and collaboration software that anyone can use—and afford. Depiction enables users to imagine, depict and share interactive geospatial scenarios like these and many others.

“People know and care about their community, but have previously lacked the tools to visually explore and share the insights, dreams and fears that affect it,” said Depiction, Inc. founder and president Mike Geertsen. “With Depiction, you can create and interact with your own ‘what if’ scenarios, in minutes, creating a living map unlike anything you’ve seen before.”

Click here to read the rest of the press release. In conjunction with this new release, we’ve got a lot of other new resources, which I’ll be mentioning here in the near future. Of course, if you subscribed to our newsletter, you might have already heard about them…

Website enhancements!

We’ve done a pretty significant revision to Check out the new home page, with a fancy sliding carousel of descriptions of what “A depiction is…”

Those will take you to our new overview page, which goes into a bit more detail, and leads to many articles about what people can do (and have done) using Depiction.

We’re hoping these new additions will enable people new to Depiction to more rapidly understand what it’s all about, and to provide a place for current users to keep up on the latest news about Depiction. It also gives something of a preview of the new look coming in the newest version of Depiction, which will be available very soon!

Depiction vs. The Snowpocalypse

Depiction user Michael C. in New Jersey was kind enough to let us know of his use of our software during the recent snow storms that slammed the Eastern US (dubbed “Snowpocalypse“):

I am a Red Cross Volunteer and Emergency Management Consultant. I just want to say that your program is extremely useful for situational awareness, planning and for disasters. I am also a part of the Red Cross State Disaster incident response team (DIRT) for NJ. Over the past 2 weeks, we had two snowstorms that affected the entire state. I was responsible for the mapping aspect for the response and reports. I used Depiction for the first time for my report in a real time disaster and received outstanding compliments! I just wanted to let you know how great your product is. Thank you and Please keep up the great work!!

Thanks for the great work you do, Michael. And thanks for sharing your story.

Remember, readers, if you have a depiction to share, you can upload it. And if you have a success story, share it on our forum.

Happy Depicting!


“Every day” vs. “eight minutes”

Jim Smalley at the Spatial Intelligence: GIS blog at Emergency Management Magazine, has a provocative post titled “What am I supposed to do NOW!?”. In it, he argues that GIS tools aren’t just something you can pull out when a disaster strikes, but something that need to be used every day:

Periodic use is okay for emergency generators, a relatively simple solution for an infrequent need. Unfortunately, a Geographic Information System (GIS) is nothing like a generator. GIS is an essential component of disaster preparedness and response, but it’s also a complex and powerful tool. In order for it to be useful in disaster management, it must be used in day-to-day operations by the people responsible for it use in disasters.

There’s no time to train people in using a complex system as the water is pouring in, disease is spreading, buildings are falling. People need to use GIS every day in their normal jobs if they are expected to use it during times of emergency. By the way, I hear this from nearly every discipline at nearly every level of GIS use – police, fire, public health, public works.

On one hand, we agree with him–GIS tools (and simulation tools, for that matter) should be a key component of not just emergency response, but planning, exercises, ‘thunderbolt drills‘ and more. Of course, to make that happen, GIS tools need to be more widespread–and that means less expensive to purchase and maintain, among other things. That’s one of the reasons we do what we do.

But on another score, we may part ways with Mr. Smalley–sure, most GIS systems are massively complex, and aren’t something that can be rapidly scaled up during a crisis. But who says they all have to be? There will always be a place for the large, complex (complicated and expensive) GIS systems Smalley refers to. But does every emergency manager need that kind of system? What if they had one that didn’t take weeks out of their busy lives to learn, but only, say, an eight-minute video? One that was simple enough to use that it didn’t require use every single day, but still powerful enough to get the job done during a crisis, drill or planning session?

UPDATE: In an email, Jim writes:

I totally agree. I can push the right buttons in GIS if I know what I want, but if I’ve never used a particular tool, I might as well be using the computer in total darkness. The best way is being familiar with any tool that public safety folks use (be it a can opener to satellite phones) and that their comfort level comes from daily use.

Really, we’re both on the same page, we’re just coming at it from two different angles–when it comes to ensuring comfort and competence with a tool that is going to be used in emergency situations, both the tool users and the tool makers have a responsibility.