Archive for October, 2011

Simulations in Depiction and DepictionPrep

Depiction & DepictionPrep both make use of Depiction’s simulation technology, letting you do rapid, basic simulations of various scenarios. The two programs do have some differences–DepictionPrep only includes disaster simulation elements, and the variables for many of those elements have been simplified. Both of them, though, provide the ability to quickly consider “what if” scenarios in your own neighborhood–or pretty much anywhere else.

Let’s go through the elements available. Several of these elements make use of elevation data, whether brought in directly from Depiction’s Quickstart sources, or loaded from other sources. The higher resolution the elevation data is, the more precise these simulations will be.

Flood: The ‘classic’ Depiction simulation element, the flood very simply calculates what the water level would look like if it were set to a certain height above the ground level at a particular point. This works basically the same way in both Depiction and DepictionPrep.

Runoff: This does a basic ‘path of least resistance’ simulation of water flowing downhill, and works best in sloped areas–if you’re simulating a flood in an area like this, the runoff tool is likely to provide better results than the flood simulation itself. The full version of Depiction provides several variables that can be tweaked to customize the simulation result. The flood also disables people, buildings and elements that it comes into contact with.

Tillamook, Oregon Search & RescueAntenna and Line of Sight: Both of these elements, only included in the full version of Depiction, use a line-of-sight simulation behavior, determining what areas can be seen from a certain point, based on the elevation data present. The elements use the same behavior, but have different default variables–height, field of view, direction, ‘horizontal sampling’ (which determines the precision of the simulation) and maximum distance–set to approximate different things. The antenna element also has additional fields that, while they don’t affect the simulation, are of interest to anyone dealing with antennas, such as frequency, power, etc.

Other simulation elements make use of the road network data obtained from OpenStreetMap.

Route – road network (called simply Route in DepictionPrep): This is a basic, ’shortest distance’ route to which you can add waypoints, which also provides turn-by-turn directions if the street names are listed in OpenStreetMap. Additional route types are available in the new Logistics Add-on. Where the road network simulations really shine, though, is in the way they work if the roads do not.

Road barrier and Water over roadway: These elements both disable any road network they touch, causing routes to recalculate and find the next shortest path between waypoints. You can change both the shape and size of these elements to set any region you want as off-limits. This is an enormously useful tool for determining evacuation routes, or just general routing that avoids a certain area.

Explosion: This element does the same basic thing–set a blast radius, and the explosion disables the road network in the area–but in addition, the explosion also disables various other elements unfortunate to be caught in it.

Fire perimeter: This freeform polygon basically enables you to create your own shape that disables elements within it. In DepictionPrep, it also disables road networks as explosions and road barriers do–in the full version, this ability is easily added from the interactions menu.

Plume: Finally, this element does a very basic simulation of a chemical plume, using variables like amount, wind speed, wind direction and amount of time. This generic plume element isn’t nearly so accurate as something like ALOHA modelling, but for the purpose of quick simulation or scenario building for family preparedness, the plume element is a great option.

For more on simulation elements watch this Depiction 101 video.

Russell Deffner: Depiction Preferred Consultant

As part of our blog series to highlight our Depiction Preferred Consultants (DPCs), this week we introduce Russell Deffner.

With a strong love of the outdoors and technology, Russell graduated from Colorado State University with a minor in Spatial Information Management Systems to accompany a Bachelor of Science in Forestry – Concentrated in Forest Fire Science.  That concentration happened to take him in a different direction after graduation, to the fire-line, and into the world of emergency/disaster management.  Wildland firefighting, being seasonal, led him to looking for another ‘hobby’ as a Red Cross Volunteer.
Russell is highly involved with the America Red Cross- MIle High Chapter, headquartered in Denver, Co. and is a strong advocate for the chapter to run volunteer disaster management planning with Depiction software. He often hosts free seminars at the Mile High RC HQ to teach volunteers about the expanding possibilities with Depiction. In September, he spoke at the 2011 State of the Map conference, OpenStreetMap’s annual international conference. Russell is also our Depiction University Instructor, keeping material fresh, fun and inspiring.
Since being introduced to Depiction, he has been helping organizations use the software in various applications including emergency services, land-stewardship and land-use planning, asset management, and for a visual component in journalism.
“The concept of Depiction being a platform has also led to an off-shoot of my business; software customization.  I have already released a few Add-ons which bring additional icons, elements and interactions into Depiction and more ideas are in the works.” comments Russell. He goes on to say, “It has been amazing to see Depiction grow over just the last year and I’m excited to be a part of it!  I am happy to talk with anyone exploring GIS to see if Depiction could be the solution they are after.  Also for those currently using or thinking of using the software, but need additional functionality, I welcome you to contact me so we can explore how that functionality might be added.”
You can learn more about Russell’s consulting solutions at his website,
Next week, we’ll introduce Steve Sprague.

DepictionPrep available for pre-order

In September, we were very excited to announce the newest addition to our software line: DepictionPrep. It is our easiest to use, most streamlined and least expensive mapping program yet. DepictionPrep is preparedness mapping software, built to help individuals, families and neighborhoods build preparedness plans. It will be available for $29.95, however pre-orders are just $24.95 right now. The full launch of DepictionPrep is just around the corner, so take advantage of the discount now!

Questions about DepictionPrep?

I have Depiction. Can I share my depictions with people who have DepictionPrep, and can they share theirs with me?

Absolutely! Depiction’s DPN files (.dpn) are completely compatible with Depiction, DepictionPrep, and the Free Reader. In fact, if you are using the Reader to share depictions with a group, DepictionPrep would be an inexpensive way to give them the ability to actually work with the files you provide, and not just view them.

What about preparedness groups like CERT and Map Your Neighborhood?

If you’re already involved with disaster preparedness in your community, you’ll get even more utility out of DepictionPrep. Create and distribute preparedness maps at the neighborhood and community level, build disaster scenarios and test your plans against them!

I already own Depiction. Should I get DepictionPrep, too?

Because DepictionPrep has been streamlined and scaled back to just those features essential for preparedness, there’s less of a learning curve than there is with Depiction—which, in turn, has much less of a learning curve than other mapping programs. If you want a simpler version of the software to do a few basic tasks, or to introduce less tech-savvy folks to Depiction, DepictionPrep is what you want.

I was considering getting Depiction. Should I get DepictionPrep instead?

Check out this comparison chart to see if DepictionPrep has all the capabilities you are looking for.

I live outside the USA. Can I use DepictionPrep?

You can—the main capabilities of DepictionPrep, building plans and creating scenarios, are available anywhere in the world, as are the primary basemaps. Though some of the data used by DepictionPrep is US-only data, the bulk of its functionality is the same no matter where you are.

How do I get DepictionPrep?

Visit and pre-order today! You’ll reserve a copy of the software for just $24.95, plus get access to an advanced beta version. This offer only lasts until we actually release the final version, so act quickly, that’s just around the corner!

Learn more at

What’s new in Depiction 1.3.3

Depiction 1.3.3 is out and available for download! If you own the software, you should just be able to run the Depiction Update program to get the latest version. If you don’t, what are you waiting for? There are quite a few nice updates in the new version, but I want to highlight a couple.

The first one you’ll notice is a new background street map source. This is the MapQuest Open street map, a “re-skinning” of OpenStreetMap created and provided by MapQuest. This is a much cleaner and smoother version of OpenStreetMap, though it does have less detail–both are useful to have on hand, and now, you do!

Washington, DC in OpenStreetMap

Washington, DC in MapQuest Open Street Ma

Another new tiling source, also from MapQuest Open, is the OpenAerialMap imagery. This is largely a combination of the NAIP and Landsat imagery that Depiction users are likely familiar with, now in a single tiling source. One very cool addition, though, is the ‘blue marble’ style tiling you get when you are zoomed out far enough.

MapQuest Open OpenAerialMap Imagery

Another nice change is the new method for downloading OpenStreetMap road network data–this should both increase the speed of the download and processing, and enable you to bring in road network data for larger areas more consistently.

I’ll wrap up with the improvements made to the settings menu. While there’s no actual change to the functionality, we’ve made things much clearer and easier to use. This is the largest of a number of ease-of-use changes that were originally developed as part of DepictionPrep but that have been brought over into Depiction 1.3.3 as well.

Settings, before

Settings, before

Settings, after

Settings, after

You can see the rest of the new enhancements and fixes at our What’s New page.

Revealers in the Reader, DepictionPrep & Depiction

Revealers are among the most unique and powerful tools in the Depiction platform. Most mapping programs use the concept of “layers,” hearkening back to 19th century technology that was used to develop separate parts of the map on different photographic plates, and then combine them together. Because a depiction is both a map and an interactive simulation environment, elements in Depiction are not divided into separate layers like this. Everything is together in the same scenario.

However, Revealers give Depiction the same capabilities that traditional mapping programs have with layers, plus a great deal more. A Revealer is a movable, Resizable window that shows you specific elements–any and all elements that you choose. A Revealer could show you Quickstart data, like aerial imagery or a street map, or data you have added yourself, like a scanned paper map, GIS data, or elements you imported from a spreadsheet or added with the mouse. Any combination of elements can be added to a Revealer, then viewed–or hidden–in any way you like.

With the Free Reader you can move, hide, resize, and even change the shape and transparency of any Revealer in a depiction you are viewing. Each of the sample depictions on our downloads page uses Revealers to provide information in different ways.

In both DepictionPrep and the full version of Depiction, you have complete control over creating, removing and editing the content of Revealers. In DepictionPrep, for example, you might plot out your home’s floorplan and the distribution of emergency supplies, putting each floor into a different Revealer, letting you view and work with each floor separately. In Depiction, you might build two different logistics or response plans, putting each one in a different Revealer, to more easily compare and present them.

To learn more about Revealers, watch this Depiction 101: Revealers session, or, if you own a copy of Depiction, take a look at the “Using Revealers” sample depiction.

Revealers example

In this example, NAIP imagery is in one revealer, while building elements are in another.

Ric Skinner, GISP: Depiction Preferred Consultant Profile

Depiction Preferred Consultants (DPC) are a great asset to Depiction and we’re happy to have them as part of the Depiction family. These folks offer services like training, project assistance and even full Depiction implementation to organizations interested in or already using Depiction. We’re writing a series of blogs to highlight the strengths of each of our DPCs to expand on the resources that support Depiction. This week we’re featuring Ric Skinner.

Ric Skinner of The Stoneybrook Group, LLC is a Certified GIS Professional with over 30 years of professional experience in hospital & healthcare preparedness, health geographics and environmental management. While The Stoneybrook Group is based in Massachusetts it is available to provides services and grant collaboration regionally and nationally. Ric is the book editor and a chapter author of GIS in Hospital and Healthcare Emergency Management. He is an active member of the International Assn. of Emergency Managers (IAEM), Urban & Regional Information Systems Assn. (URISA), and other professional organizations and their listservs. Following the old adage “if I give you a fish you will eat for one meal; if I teach you to fish you will never go hungry,” Ric’s consulting objective is to teach others how to use GIS to meet their needs for assuring that the right people, have the right information, at the right time and in the right format. While he has used ESRI GIS software since the late 1980s, he recognizes that many small organizations and budget-strapped municipalities cannot afford the investment of money and people for a GIS that has many features and functions they really don’t need. That’s why he now focuses on the “leaner and less costly” GIS capabilities that Depiction provides.

I have had the pleasure of working with Ric both virtually and in person. I appreciate his knowledge of GIS, healthcare and policy affecting both, and his desire to foster collaboration and effective use of Depiction. Ric is very enthusiastic about GIS (he has been called a “GIS evangelist”) and about Depiction, both in its current functionality and its potential. We have featured him in two Depiction Perspectives interviews (June 2010 and June 2011), and several blog posts.

For the past year or so, Ric has been working with Chris Floyd of Disaster Resistant Communities Group, to put on the Formidable Footprint online tabletop exercise series. He uses Depiction to produce interactive and static maps that illustrate the location and effects of the disaster for each innovative, free monthly event.

Please contact Ric Skinner via email with any questions and visit The Stoneybrook Group, LLC to learn more about his company.

Blogging through the Depiction comparison chart

Last week I posted the comparison chart that gives a quick overview of the differences between the Depiction Reader, DepictionPrep and the full version of Depiction. This week, I’m going to go through the chart and look at the different capabilities in more detail.

Today, we’ll start with the five lines–the primary purpose of each program, their cost, and what they can do with depiction (or DPN) files.

Depiction Reader is fairly basic–it enables anyone to freely view maps and scenarios created with Depiction or DepictionPrep, much like the Adobe PDF reader does the same for PDF files. It’s available for free, and in addition to being a great introduction to Depiction and letting you play with our various sample files, has enabled various organizations across the country to make great use of Depiction even when not everyone involved owns the full product.

DepictionPrep builds on that capability. As a streamlined version of Depiction built specifically for personal and neighborhood preparedness, DepictionPrep can, like the Reader, open any file created in the full version of Depiction. But in addition to that, there is also the capability of editing those depictions, and, of course, the primary purpose creating your own preparedness maps and scenarios. The one limitation on creating depictions is that they must be kept down to a local level–under 100 square miles. And all this for just $29.95.

Depiction itself lets you do all of this, naturally, and with all of the software’s powerful tools at your disposal, and can create depictions of nearly unlimited size. There are a couple limitations–first, the planet is only so big, so that’s a fairly hard limit. Second, while your depictions can be of any size, there are limits to the amount of data you can load into a single depiction. Trying to load 30-meter elevation or road network data for the entire state of Colorado, for example, would probably not end well. But aside from that sort of thing, the sky (or rather, the earth) is the limit! The full version of Depiction costs $199, which, while more than DepictionPrep, is still a pretty incredible bargain when compared to tools with similar capabilities.

Which version of Depiction is right for you?

With the new version of Depiction coming out, DepictionPrep preparedness mapping software, you might be curious about which version of Depiction–the full version, DepictionPrep, or even the Depiction Free Reader.

This new Depiction comparison chart may help you navigate your options.

There are a few other differences that someone familiar with both products will recognize, but that’s a good summary. DepictionPrep has been scaled back and streamlined to make it a powerful tool for a couple tasks. The full version of Depiction, meanwhile, is a very powerful, flexible platform that can provide a wide range of solutions to folks who need situational awareness, asset management, event planning, table-top exercises or any number of other tools, particularly in (though not limited to) emergency management.

DepictionPrep is also a great place to start if you’re new to mapping and don’t find it easy to learn new software. The basic tools and tutorials will give you a great grounding that will serve you well if you decide to upgrade to the full version later.

Of course, if you want something right now, the full version is your only option–but DepictionPrep is on its way soon!

Mer enn kartlegging

Google Translate tells me that means ‘more than mapping’ in Norwegian, and hopefully it’s right.

The Depiction 1.3.3 Release Candidate became available this week, and one of the new features added is Quickstart data for Norway–two different topographic maps and a hydrographic map. If you use 1.3.3 to create a new depiction in Norway, you’ll see these new options

You may ask, why Norway? As nice a country as it is, this wasn’t an idea that came out of our own heads–a Norwegian user used the Depiction support forum to point us to a set of data services provided by the Norwegian Mapping Authority.

Quickstart data consists of publicly available data from governments and other organizations–and if you know of data that is being made available that you think we should take advantage of, let us know, either in the Depiction support forum or right here.

In the meantime, if you’d like to explore Norway a little further, download Depiction 1.3.3 and take a look!