Archive for December, 2010

Earthquake in Indiana

A magnitude 3.8 earthquake shook Indiana just north of Indianapolis this morning, apparently causing little damage. Read this article for more details. The USGS has data posted here, though it apparently hasn’t been reviewed yet. This makes the Formidable Footprint (January) and Great Shakeout (April) exercises coming up seem very well timed.

I downloaded the USGS shapefile and did a quick depiction of the MMI (a relative intensity index). Indianapolis is to the south and Fort Wayne to the Northeast in this image.

Depicting the epicenter and relative feel of the quake

Depicting the epicenter and relative feel of the quake

Drop me a line if you’d like more info on how I depicted this.

Depiction encourages all our staff, readers and users to prepare for the hazards in your area. For more info, visit Ready.gov.

Have a safe and happy New Year!

Depiction of the Week: Tillamook, Oregon Search and Rescue

This should really be the Depiction of Last Week, as that’s when we originally received it, but I was slow in getting it up–slow enough that we have cool update, so read to the end.

This week’s depiction is from our good friend Gordon McCraw, emergency manager for Tillamook County, Oregon. You might have heard Gordon during our emergency manager panel webinar in September (and if you haven’t, you should check it out). In the guest post below, Gordon outlines the origins of this depiction.


On November 22 and 23, 12 volunteer Search and Rescue members and 8 different deputies searched for a 75-year-old diabetic hunter who had gotten stuck in the snow in the Tillamook State Forest. The subject called just after noon on the 22nd to say he was stuck in about 2 feet of snow after accidently running off the road. He was able to provide his location via the cellphone but searchers were unable to find him on the road he indicated he was traveling at the time.

As night fell the search was called off until daylight and the gentleman concurred he was in no danger that night, stayed in his vehicle until daylight on the 23rd when the search continued. Through information received from his cellphone carrier, the team was able to narrow down the search which was hampered by the deep snow that had fallen over the previous few days. The search was further narrowed by propagation data provided by another agency and with the help of an Air Guard helicopter, the subject was located several miles from where the hunter thought he was.

Searchers had taken their vehicles as far as practical, the used 4-Wheelers to continue and still were only able to reach the subject by walking the last mile or so. By the time searches reached the subject, he was out of food and water and as his diabetes was controlled by diet, it too was beginning to have a negative impact on his health. The hunter was then airlifted to the Tillamook Airport where he was transported to the local hospital for examination.

As the emergency manager, I had previously obtained a copy of Depiction and used it for other issues. Over the weekend after the search, I used Depiction to see what the results would have been and was pleasantly surprised. While the propagation module did not show reception where the subject was found, it would have still provided the management team with the necessary data to isolate the road the subject was ultimately found on. Search and Rescue management has already asked me for a copy and this software will be used in the future.


I followed up with Gordon today, and he sent me this note: “We had another couple kids stuck in the snow and lost last weekend. The SAR folks called me, I ran the same profile after finding the location of the cell site, gave them a “point”, and within two hours the SAR team found them WITHIN a half-mile of my point. Now 2 fer 2!”

Tillamook, Oregon Search & Rescue

Tillamook, Oregon Search & Rescue

“We Need It Bigger”

I had the good fortune this week to attend the first EOC (Emergency Operations Center) drill in Anacortes, WA. The GIS manager for the city, Rob Hoxie, has designated Depiction as their EOC mapping solution, and asked me to join him in the EOC.

The planning committee spent the last two months putting this drill together. As I understand it, most of the city staff has ICS training from FEMA, so this drill put that to the test. The Fire Chief acts as the EOC director, as the city does not have an emergency manager. The scenario for the 4-hour drill was a 30-inch snowfall over 3 days, which takes out the power and home phone service for the entire city (pop. 16,000). In preparation a member of the planning committee put together a Microsoft Access database to record events and track resources. Rob also put together 2 depictions of the city: 1 with all the events in it and one “blank”. I copied those files to my computer and used an email account to send events from the full depiction to the empty on via Live Reports, as Rob placed events “manually” as the scenario unfolded. Both processes worked well, and his became more effective when the internet and cell service went out in the scenario (the IT guys killed internet and I disconnected my wireless card). Rob also made use of the “Bring to center” button in the Manage content menu to make the newly placed events flash on the screen.

One of Rob’s hopes for the event was to bring attention to the depiction, which was projected on  a 5′ screen from the ceiling. For the first hour or so, not many people took not, but by hour 3, folks in the front, middle and back of the room were consulting the depiction. Their main comment? “We need it bigger!” With 34 events on the map, many flashing and text shown to describe them, 5′ was not enough space. They’ll be looking into buying a 10′ screen.

A clipping of simulated events

A clipping of the events simulated in the drill

This was a very effective drill, and I was impressed by the dedication, attention and knowledge of the staff. I was also glad that one of the outcomes was a decision to move away from the 5-copy carbonless-paper form to report events to the room, hoping instead to provide each area of expertise with access to the ICS database to view and update events. Depiction could also help, and I will be working closely with Rob and his colleagues in coming months to help this happen.