Depiction of the Week

Using a User-created Depiction Interaction Rule to Aid in Tornado Damage Assessment

For our Depiction of the Week, we have a guest post from Ric Skinner, GISP, a Depiction Preferred Consultant.

I needed a simple way to do a damage estimate of a tornado path through a town for the Formidable Footprint Tornado tabletop exercise which will be staged on Saturday April 30. After placing a User-defined Shape on my depiction I noticed it looked a lot like a flood map. Knowing that the flood interaction rule interacts with specified elements to disable them if they occur in the flood zone area. So I created a “tornado path” interaction rule as follows:

1.    I created a tornado path from the explosion element, deleting all the points not needed.
2.    I saved the new shape to my element library, naming it “tornado path.”
3.    I copied the flood interaction rule, renamed it “tornado path”, indicating the cause as “tornado path”, and checked the elements I wanted it to interact with – for this simple example just buildings.
4.    Because I don’t like the clutter that the red “X” causes for disabled buildings, I created a separate layer of disabled (=destroyed, in my example) by exporting the buildings as a CSV.
5.    I added a new field (attribute) named “Status”
6.    I saved the file a “all building” to keep for backup.
7.    I saved it again as “buildings OK” and deleted all records with “Active = False”. I added the value “No Damage” to the “Status” field. These are the buildings outside the tornado path.
8.    I saved “all buildings” again and deleted all records with “Active = True”. I added the value “Destroyed” to the “Status” field. These are the building inside the tornado path.
9.    Then I “turned off” the tornado path” interaction rule by un-checking the box indicating to use the rule “in this depiction”. This is so the interaction rule doesn’t run again when new building files are added.
10.     I deleted the buildings layer (i.e., all the original buildings) in my depiction and re-imported the two new buildings files, using two different symbols indicating their status. Additional levels of damage were indicated in the Status attribute by manually editing each element.
11.    Then using the new status value to filter certain buildings, the symbol outline color was specified to indicate “destroyed”, “major damage” or “minor damage”.

With the tornado path interaction disabled it is easy to see (without the red “X”) which buildings were spared and which were damaged, along with any additional hover text information desired.

Click here to download the depiction.

Screenshot of the depiction

Depiction of the Week - Tracking Tornado Damage

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant depiction

The crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear Power Plant continues. After hearing much talk about the various reactors, the evacuation zones and so on, I got curious as to what, exactly the scale of the event really was. That curiosity, plus a couple hours of work in Depiction, turned into a pretty extensive depiction of the region surrounding the power plant.

To view the file, you’ll need Depiction or the free Depiction Reader.

The depiction includes data and imagery from:

I also used the Depiction Preparedness Add-on and one of our handy icon packs.

I hope this will be valuable to anyone who is trying to get a sense of the situation in Japan–it also happens to very nicely demonstrate Depiction’s powerful capabilities in combining multiple diverse types of data, which is nice, too.

If you have any questions–or suggestions–please post them in the comments!

UPDATE: I’ve uploaded a new version of the depiction–yesterday the US Department of Energy released a map that outlined the results of aerial radiation monitoring in the Fukushima area. I’ve included that map, as well as shapes extrapolated from that information. I’ll put up a post later about how I did that.

Additionally, I added a new batch of earthquakes from the USGS feed. It appears that the links included in the epicenters of quakes older than 7 days no longer work. That is, unfortunately, due to the way that the USGS outputs their data and archives older quakes. You can still find them, if you’re really curious, here–but only for the next couple weeks.

Screenshot of the Fukushima Daiichi depiction

Screenshot of the Fukushima Daiichi depiction

Depiction of the Week: Christchurch Earthquake

Christchurch, New Zealand was just hit with an earthquake. It was “just” a 6.3 quake, but as you can see from the Depiction of the Week, the epicenter was square in the middle of the city, and just a couple miles below the surface.Christchurch Earthquake

For more on rapidly building these kind of earthquake simulations, see this video, “90 Seconds to Map an Earthquake“.

UPDATE: The depiction has been updated with newer information from the USGS, as well as reports from the Christchurch Earthquake Ushahidi instance.

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

Depiction of the Week: St. Louis County, MN 2010 Congressional Election

This month’s historic election gave the Republican party a larger gain than any single party has seen since the 1940’s, but that broad, national trend was made up of many decisions made at the smallest possible level–the level of the individual. Now, Depiction can’t really map things quite down to that level, (there’s a thing called a secret ballot), Depiction can help you do the next best thing, and create “hyperlocal” election maps at the precinct level.

This week’s Depiction of the Week is one such map. Possibly the biggest single surprise in the election outcome was the result in Minnesota’s 8th District, in the northeast part of the state along Lake Superior. After representing the district since 1974, Democrat Jim Oberstar lost to Republican Chip Cravaack. This depiction shows the precinct level results in St. Louis County, which is where Duluth, the largest city in the district, is located.

I’ll be doing a webinar on Tuesday, November 23, “Hyperlocal Election Maps Made Easy” showing how you can create depictions like this one–and even more complex ones–very easily. If this is the sort of thing you’re interested in, I hope to see you there!

And once you’ve built them, of course, Depiction lets you combine them with all kinds of maps, data and images, whether publicly available or your own proprietary information. Want to see what voting patterns look like based on proximity to schools or other points of interest? No problem. You can even overlay them with scanned paper maps or routes, and much more.

Minnesota has some particularly good resources for building election depictions. Shapefiles of districts, precincts and even election results can be accessed here. Up-to-date election results can be accessed here in semicolon-delimited format. You can convert these into spreadsheets pretty easily using Excel.

St.Louis County 2010 Congressional Election Results

St.Louis County 2010 Congressional Election Results


To view this depiction, download the Depiction Free Reader .

Depiction of the Week: Pender County, NC Flooding

This week’s depiction is another one straight from the headlines–from fires to floods, this time around. As the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole pounded the Carolina coast about a month ago, Tom Collins, Emergency Management Director for Pender County, North Carolina, needed a way to see what was going on and where. The Depiction Preferred Consultants at C3 Applications set Tom up with a couple copies of Depiction, which they have integrated with their incident management system, ICSolution.

After just a short time getting oriented with the software, Tom was able to visually track road closures, damage reports, shelters, assets and much more, all pushed out directly from the ICSolution database to Depiction via email. Tom also used the Depiction flood element to simulate the possible extent of the flooding–and as you can see in the depiction, it ended up lining up very well with the actual road closures they ended up with. Tom also use Depiction to help determine what schools would be closed, and to assist with damage assessment and cleanup after the floods subsided.

This is a great story for a couple reasons. First, because it demonstrates how easy it is to use Depiction. Tom was able to start using Depiction for the first time literally in the middle of a disaster, and still found it immensely valuable. Second, it shows how easy it is for other systems to interface with Depiction. The way that C3’s David Hancock integrated their software with Depiction–without needing any real help from us–was fiendishly simple. He just pushes out emails from his system to a designated email address that is read by Depiction using Live Reports. That’s all it takes to add, update and even reposition elements within Depiction.

If you want to learn more about Tom’s experience, or about how ICSolution integrates with Depiction, we recorded the Tom and David did a webinar last week, ICSolution and Depiction: an Online/Offline Solution for Mapping and Incident Management.

Pender County, NC Flooding Depiction

Each week we’ll feature a depiction that you can open with either the Reader or the full version of Depiction. Are you a Depiction user with a Depiction you’d like to see featured? Click here to submit it.

Depiction of the Week: Fourmile Fire

This week’s “Depiction of the Week” was not built by me. This was put together by Depiction Preferred Consultant and emergency volunteer Russell Deffner. In the guest post below, Russell details the story of how he put the depiction together. For more on this, and how the depiction was used, he’ll be presenting “Depicting the Fourmile Fire” on next Thursday, November 4.


On September 6, 2010, around 10 AM, a fire was reported in the 7100 block of Fourmile Canyon Drive, west of Boulder, Colorado. By about noon that Monday–Labor Day–it was clear this fire was dangerous. We get quite a bit of wildfire in Colorado, but when the local news starts breaking into normal television programming, you know that it isn’t the typical isolated fire in the wilderness; it’s either big, near homes, or both. For many reasons, I wanted a better visual of the incident than I could get by just watching the news. As a Depiction Preferred Consultant, a freelance journalist, a volunteer wildland firefighter, and the volunteer GIS specialist for the American Red Cross Mile High Chapter, I began depicting the incident as it unfolded.

The first size up to be reported on the news was at about 2 PM and it was estimated to be 200 acres. From my experience as a wildland firefighter I knew two things: first, that’s a good size for only 4 hours of burn time, and second, from the video taken by the news helicopter, it was clearly much bigger than that. About two hours later my suspicion was confirmed when the news reported the size estimate at 2200 acres.

In this depiction you can view my use of the plume element to roughly estimate the fire perimeter around this time. There are three estimates conveniently packaged in a Revealer. I soon learned that the Boulder County Office of Emergency Management was releasing information fairly rapidly on their website (which turned out to be quicker and more accurate than the local news channels) and that is where the majority of the data in this depiction came from.

Although originally I had not built this depiction with any particular use in mind, it turned out to be extremely beneficial to various groups within the Red Cross as a common operating picture. As this fire continued, many people were tragically displaced from the area (grey shaded area) and needed shelter; at one point an area inside the Boulder city limits was put on notice (the red shaded area) because a high wind warning created the potential for the fire to spread into the city. Though they have been removed from this depiction (to respect privacy), I was able to quickly add, by importing a spreadsheet, all the Red Cross shelters in and around Boulder in preparation, because the potential evacuation zone would have created roughly 30,000 additional evacuees. Luckily the fireline held and the evacuation inside city limits never happened.

Unfortunately the Fourmile fire, as it was named, eventually became the most destructive fire in Colorado history in in terms of the number structures, mostly homes, that it consumed. Inside another revealer you will find 169 red dots and 25 blue dots: it’s rather upsetting to see all the red dots, as they are the structures that were destroyed, the blue being those damaged. This information was useful to the disaster assessment folks at the Red Cross in planning the long process of helping the affected people and the communities recover.

This depiction varies slightly from the original. I have added some additional information that slipped by me in the heat of the moment, such as the airport from which the air support was operating, as well as some various community resources: the justice center, library, Humane Society, etc. that played a role in the incident. I have also removed some information (mainly addresses and shelters) to protect privacy. Lastly GeoEye, a satellite imagery company released a free high resolution satellite image of the Gold Hill area after the fire, of which a part has been added, in yet another revealer, so you can compare the scene before and after the devastation.

My heart goes out to anyone affected by wildfire and I mean no disrespect by depicting this tragic scenario. It is my belief that by sharing this depiction others will be better prepared to create a common operating picture that assists in all phases of a disaster – mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. I am honored that this depiction has assisted in this incident and has generated such response. I am also amazed that, nearly two months later, the shelf-life has yet to run out. People involved in the recovery process are still showing interest in using it. That is why I offer it for anyone to view, use, expand upon and learn from; happy depicting!

Fourmile Fire Depiction

Depiction of the Week: Fourmile Fire

Depiction of the Week: Mount Rainier Hike

In early September, I had the opportunity to go on a lovely, if strenuous, hike to the Golden Lakes area in Mount Rainier National Park southeast of Seattle. Along the way I took a few photographs, including a few very nice looking (if I do say so myself) panoramic images. When I got back, I wanted to compare what we had done with the imagery and maps that Depiction brings in via Quickstart.

Using the new Depiction Reader, you can take a look at the result in this week’s “Depiction of the Week,” which includes the USGS topgraphic map and elevation data, NAIP aerial imagery, the aforementioned photographs, and a GPX track we took of the hike. The most interesting thing I found in the depiction was the significant disparity between the trails marked on the USGS map (which I had taken with me) and the reality of what we hiked as shown by GPS. This explained quite a few of the “why am I not at the top/bottom yet?” questions I asked while slogging up/down the many (many) switchbacks along the trail. Next year, I’ll be bringing a printed version of this depiction along!

This depiction is a great example of how you can use Depiction to merge multiple, very different data sources into a single scenario that others can easily explore. This depiction is a hike, but this could just as easily be a post-disaster damage assessment, an event plan, or a regional tour.

Mount Rainier Hike Depiction

Depiction of the Week: Mount Rainier Hike

Each week we’ll feature a depiction that you can open with either the Reader or the full version of Depiction. Are you a Depiction user with a Depiction you’d like to see featured? Click here to submit it.

Depiction of the Week: Honolulu Tsunami Simulation

With the advent of the Depiction Reader, we’re starting a new feature called “Depiction of the Week”. Each week we’ll feature a depiction that you can open with either the Reader or the full version of Depiction. Are you a Depiction user with a Depiction you’d like to see featured? Click here to submit it.

This week’s depiction is this Honolulu Tsunami simulation. This depiction was originally built back on February 27, 2010. That was the day when an 8.8 magnitude quake hit just off the coast of Chile, and a tsunami warning was issued for the entire Pacific. Hawaii underwent its first tsunami evacuation since 1994, and waves of 8 to 9 feet were predicted.

Fortunately, the waves ended up being far smaller than predicted, but there were tense hours when that was unclear. During those hours, I happened to be far away from the office and my usual computers. As it happened, I was at a wedding, with nothing but my wife’s netbook. Still, I wanted to use Depiction to quickly show what the potential impact of waves of different heights could be.

Fortunately, I was able to snag some time and some wifi, and created this post with links depictions of Hilo Bay, Honolulu, and, at the request of a commenter, Kahului Bay on Maui, each with simulations of 6, 9 and 12 foot inundations.

The depiction presented here is the one created for Honolulu, with a few more elements added–specifically schools, hospitals and evacuation zones, all retrieved from the very thorough Hawaii Statewide GIS program.

A few caveats: the Depiction flood model is a very simple one, built to give a rapid potential impact (even when just using a netbook!) by showing what an increase in water level from a certain point would look like, based on the elevation data contained in the Depiction. The elevation data I used was that provided through Depiction’s Quickstart feature, and is 30-meter DEM data from the USGS (this means that the elevation was measured every 30 meters). Using higher resolution elevation data–where the elevation was measured every 10 meters, for example–would likely give different, more accurate results, though it would also increase the file size.

Honolulu Tsunami Simulation

Depiction of the Week: Honolulu Tsunami Simulation