Disaster Recovery

Depiction University Updated for 1.3

While we designed Depiction to be user-friendly, intuitive and easy to use, it soon became apparent that users wanted more help in learning all the tools available in the software. So we introduced Depiction University in the Fall of 2010. With the release of Depiction 1.3 in May, lots of updating was in order for the DU program, and we are happy to announce that this process is complete. The program includes eight self-paced modules, which a “student” has one year to complete. There is also a special forum on depiction.com where students can share ideas, provide feedback on the software and DU program, and interact with instructors. And we have designed a special preview module so you can try it out.  Find out more today!

Depiction University Logo

Depicting Fukushima Video

Tim posted a new video on YouTube, discussing his depiction of the Fukushima Daiichi plant issues.YouTube Preview Image

This is a powerful use of our software, I must say. Please comment or contact us if you have any questions.

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

Devastating earthquake in Japan

It seems like a lot of our posts in the last couple months have been about earthquakes–and today’s unfortunately, is one of the strongest ever, a magnitude of 9.1.

As I did for the Christchurch earthquake, I’ve put together a depiction of the earthquake’s shakemap and other pertinent information–two of them actually. Because this earthquake’s epicenter was in the ocean, and because it was larger, its direct affects on the land were more dispersed and widespread than they were in New Zealand.

The first depiction shows the original epicenter off the coast, as well as the closest areas affected, primarily the Miyagi prefecture. Data in this depiction comes from the USGS (the shakemap and epicenters–note that the epicenters were brought in automatically using our Preparedness add-on), from OpenStreetMap via Cloudmade, and from Wikipedia via Geocommons. For details on bringing in earthquake data to Depiction, see the video 90 Seconds to Map an Earthquake from last year.

Download this depiction here (1.07 mb).

The next depiction is of Tokyo, and brings in much of the same data–though because Tokyo is much more highly populated, there’s a lot more of it. In addition, I added shelter information from Google’s ‘My Map’ aggregator though that information is all unvetted as far as I know.

Download the Tokyo depiction here (2.94 mb).

Obviously, most everyone who has a mapping interest right now is churning out similar maps, most of them online (in addition to Google’s above, see ESRI’s here). Obviously I’m not replacing anything they are doing here. But I’m able to take much of the same data they have, and rapidly put it together the way I want to see it. Additionally, I have it all available on my local computer–so if I were in Japan and lost Internet access due to the aftermath of the quake, I would still have all the data available. And, perhaps most importantly, I put all this together with essentially no GIS expertise. I just happen to know how to use Depiction.

This quake is having effects beyond Japan–Hawaii was hit with a tsunami that is still receding. These depictions, with simulations built after an earthquake that didn’t end up causing a tsunami, might be of particular relevance now.

UPDATE: I’ve added shapefiles of damage and flooding zones, provided by the National Geospatial Agency, part of the US military, to the first depiction above. You can also download the shapefiles directly.

In addition, I’ve created a new depiction using topographic maps of Japan from the US Army. It’s the same as the first depiction above, but a larger file size because of the inclusion of large images. Download that one here (8.35 mb).

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

Exercises Gaining Popularity

The Disaster Resource Guide Continuity e-Guide #355 released yesterday includes “Exercises Crucial for Effective Disaster Planning”. This is right in line with our thinking and our sponsorship of the Formidable Footprint Exercises. It’s great to see that this is an international trend! For more on Depiction and exercises, check out these upcoming and recent webinars:

Please let us know if we can help you plan or coordinate a local exercise (or if you plan to use Depiction in one).

Happy Depicting!

Depiction sponsors community exercise series

Depiction is excited to be helping out with a series of online community exercises, to help groups like Citizen Corps groups, neighborhood associations and others prepare themselves for disaster. The first of these “Formidable Footprint” exercises will be on October 30, and focus on a hurricane scenario. More details from Ric Skinner, a Depiction Preferred Consultant who helped connect us with the event:

Disaster Resistant Communities Group (DRCG) will develop, facilitate and evaluate a series of disaster exercises for neighborhoods entitled “Formidable Footprint – A Neighborhood Tabletop Exercise”. The “Formidable Footprint” series of exercises will serve as an opportunity for community and neighborhood organizations, including Citizen Corps, Community Emergency Response Teams, Map Your Neighborhood Teams, and Neighborhood Associations to assess the ability of neighborhood residents to work together to prepare for, respond to and recover from a variety of natural disasters which can affect the lives of neighborhood residents.

According to Skinner, DRCG recognizes that GIS is an important tool for Situational Awareness and a Common Operational Picture. “Formidable Footprint” scenarios – hurricane, earthquake, flood, wildfire, tornado, influenza pandemic — will incorporate Depiction mapping, simulation and collaboration software (Depiction, Inc.; http://www.depiction.com) to provide players with exercise-relevant maps with which they can interact, making the exercise more real and meaningful.

We are looking forward to these events, and think they hold a great deal of promise to help prepare communities around the country.

Getting Haiti data into Depiction

We’ve had several inquiries about looking at data related to the Haiti earthquake in Depiction. Our video showed how easy it is to get basic earthquake data into Depiction–and you can now view a related depiction online–but what most people are concerned about at the moment is the recovery situation.

There is now a great resource for that kind of data that can be easily loaded into Depiction. CubeWerx and the Carbon Project have put up two different web services with data relating to Haiti and the earthquake. One is a WMS, which brings in images, and another is a WFS that brings in shapes and point data–including building locations, building footprints and more.

WFS URL: http://demo.cubewerx.com/demo/cubeserv/cubeserv.cgi?config=haiti&datastore=OSM&service=WFS&request=GetCapabilities

WMS URL: http://demo.cubewerx.com/demo/cubeserv/cubeserv.cgi?config=haiti&service=WMS&request=GetCapabilities

To add these into a depiction, just go to Add>>Web service, paste the URL into the field, note which type of service you are using, and hit Show content. That will load up a menu of the different layers included in the service, which you can add as various element types.

Much of this data comes from OpenStreetMap, which has been doing incredible work mapping the situation there. Depiction tiling & Quickstart already brings in some of the data included in these services, such as road networks, but most of it is unique. Here’s what just a very quick use of the WFS gave us:

UPDATE: Many more WMS feeds are available here.