Archive for April, 2010

Depiction in a Mobile Communications Unit

A Depiction user runs a mobile command unit that is part of the Army MARS system. It’s outfitted with multiple radios, five computer stations, a printer, a fax and much more. In his latest update on his MCU website, he writes:

“Installed Depiction on all of the MCU’s desktop PCs to provide a Common Operating Picture of the disaster scene.”

This is exactly the kind of thing we love to see Depiction doing!
Mobile Command Unit

Civil Air Patrol & Depiction

Above the Capital, the blog of the National Capital wing of the Civil Air Patrol, has a nice post about our Volunteer Month discount (only one week left!).

The Civil Air Patrol is another one of the great volunteer organizations whose members are starting to adopt Depiction. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s the official civilian auxiliary of the US Air Force, and is involved in search and rescue, disaster relief and more–a great fit for our software!

Two Webinars Tomorrow

We have two webinars going on tomorrow, April 21, one for people new to Depiction and wanting to learn more, and another for Depiction users who want to get the most out of the software.

Midday, at 1 PM EDT/10 AM PDT, Captain Kim Buike and myself are presenting “Preparing for the Unexpected Disaster“. This is a version of the webinar we did last month for Red Cross workers, and is designed for disaster volunteers, but should be accessible to anyone looking at using Depiction to plan for or respond to emergencies.

Then, tomorrow evening, our support manager George Rodgers-Clark will present “Depiction 101: Custom Elements & Importing Spreadsheets“. This is the second showing of the first of our new Depiction 101 series, and focuses on two of the programs most powerful features.

I hope you’ll be able to make it to one–or both!–of these tomorrow.

Volunteers get a 50% discount during April

April is National Volunteer Month (and this week is National Volunteer Week), and so to honor and support the volunteers who do so much to keep our communities safe and happy, we’re offering a 50% discount to volunteers until the end of April. Here are some choice quotes about the software, and the discount, from our news release:

“During the winter snowstorms in the northeast, I used Depiction to make real-time disaster reports and received outstanding compliments,” said Michael Craig, a volunteer Situational Awareness Specialist with the Montclair-Glen Ridge-Nutley Chapter of the American Red Cross in New Jersey. “I truly believe that this program can help the community and save lives.”

“Whether it is sheltering families, rescuing those trapped by floods, feeding the hungry or searching for the lost, our nation’s volunteers deserve the best technology to help them prepare for and respond to community needs,” said Mike Geertsen, Depiction, Inc. president and founder. “Depiction is used by professional emergency managers in the government, the private sector and non-profits, but we designed the software to be easy and affordable enough for individual volunteers who needs to explore scenarios that affect their community.”

“Any volunteer organization, if they are looking at a Geographic Information System, especially with the 50% off, getting Depiction is kind of a no-brainer,” said Russell Deffner GIS Specialist at the Mile High chapter of the American Red Cross in Colorado. “It’s a great visualization tool for everything from spreadsheets to complex GIS files, and it’s a great time saver when it comes to gathering publicly available data.”

This discount is only available through the end of April, so I suggest you act now!

Depiction in Print

One of our new users, Russell Deffner, also happens to be a writer with a GIS-related minor. He wrote the following article for The Flume, his local paper in Park County, Colorado. The paper recently published an article he wrote about a new state park being developed in the area. A PDF of the article is attached. Images Russell created with Depiction are excerpted below.

Thanks for sharing, Russell, and a fine use for Depiction!

The article: Staunton0001

Aerial Image of the Park area


Location of the park area


Japan Trip Maps

I recently returned from a trip to Japan and was uploading my photos to Picasa Web Albums.  I had organized my photos by each day of the trip and thought it would be nice to show where we traveled that day.  Deciding which mapping tool I should use was easy because I knew exactly what I had to do to accomplish what I wanted with Depiction.  So I started a new depiction and chose Japan for my location.  OpenStreetMap didn’t have the detail I wanted so I went to Google maps and took screen shots of the areas of interest and then brought them into Depiction and geo-aligned them.  Then I created user drawn routes for each leg of the trip and then took screen shots of each and now I had my title slides for each of my days photos.

Day 4 Title Slide

The Result for Day 4

Day 6 Title Slide

The Results: Day 6

Announcing Depiction 101

If you’ve been following us for a while, you may remember the Depiction 101 webinars we did many months ago. We’re resurrecting them, after a fashion–every month, we’ll do a new support webinar on one or two specific features or capabilities of Depiction. You can read more about it, and some of our other (free!) support options in our news release.

The first webinar, “Custom Elements & Importing Spreadsheets” will be held on Wednesday, April 14, at 1 PM EDT/10 AM PDT, and then again on Wednesday, April 21 at 8:30 PM EDT/5:30 PM PDT. These are two very powerful features that any Depiction user will want to have a good handle on–I hope you’re able to make it!

Two ways to use Depiction over RF

There are two very cool recent developments that enable Amateur Radio users to send and receive data to and from copies of Depiction, without touching the Internet

First, the APRS Live add-on, which allows APRS packet information received over RF via your radio and TNC to be displayed in Depiction, is now in its second beta and will be released in May. The add-on, built by a third-party developer, will cost $39.95, but you can pre-order it today for only $34.95. Click here to download the brochure (pdf) and learn more. If you are currently enrolled in the beta for APRS Live, there is no need to pre-order, but please do spread the word!

Second, Depiction user Gary Takis has put together a document that outlines the steps for using Depiction’s Live Reports feature with the global Winlink2000 (WL2K) system and the Paclink interface client program, allowing users to send and receive map elements and alerts without Internet access. Click here to download Gary’s document (pdf).

Drills & Exercises

John D. Solomon’s excellent blog “In Case of Emergency, Read Blog” has been on hiatus since December, but I saw today that he’s back, which is great news for all of us concerned with engaging the public in emergency preparedness.

One of his recent flurry of great posts is on the reevaluation of national disaster exercises by the Department of Homeland Security.

Convinced that the drills are the best way to determine whether the nation is prepared for a disaster, some emergency planners and state officials say they fear that as the federal government cuts costs, it may dumb down the tests so participants will pass them more easily. Shying away from the toughest problems, they say, risks repeating the mistakes that were made after Hurricane Katrina, when an unprepared White House and Louisiana governor clashed over who was in charge, how to allocate resources and whether to send in the military.

White House officials and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano say they are trying to improve the national exercises, not undercut them. The drills have grown into unrealistic, costly and over-scripted productions, Napolitano has said, an “elaborate game” rather than opportunities for officials to work through problems.

Last week I had the opportunity to take part in a multi-county tabletop exercise that used Depiction as the visualization component (we’ll have more details about that later). After that experience, I am more firmly convinced that affordable, flexible tools like Depiction can serve as a way to mitigate some of those dangers–particularly dangers of being overly costly and over-scripted–at all levels of government, from federal to local. It can also help responders (and citizens!) focus on working through problems, rather than shying away from the difficult ones.

Use PowerPoint for Screen Capture and Print

When Carol Dunn was here on for her presentation last month, she pointed out that one can user MS PowerPoint to edit screen captures. Then another user asked about best practices for getting a full page print out from Depiction. So I tested it out, and found it quite simple. Of course, I had to know how to do some picture editing (crop is available in the Picture Formatting menu, and I had to make sure that the printer was set for Landscape. The result?

Image of a depiction screen capture edited in PowerPoint.

The Result

I used our Nursing Home Evacuation sample depiction (included with every install of Depiction). Used Windows Print Screen function, then the Paste function onto a blank PowerPoint slide. I then had to move the image around and size it down a bit (holding down the SHIFT key while dragging a corner with the mouse), and crop it (available, as I noted above, on the Picture menu). In the Print dialog, I went to Preferences and set the orientation to landscape and printed. Granted, this is a bit complicated, but if practiced a few times should be pretty easy to do on the fly.

Let me know what you think.  Happy Depicting!