First Responders

February 22, 2012 Webinar

Russell Deffner(Depiction Preferred Consultant and Depiction University Instructor) will be presenting the next Depiction 101 Webinar on February 22nd and 9:00am PST/Noon EST. Below is Russell’s description of what he is going to be covering.

A Tabletop Exercise (TTX) is an excellent way to go through the motions of an event that is not part of your typical routine or just difficult or expensive to replicate.  I have personally participated in many TTX.  Some very good, some not so much; in my opinion the relative success of a TTX is how absorbed I get in the scenario.  If I can picture myself in the moment, making those decisions, then afterward I feel better prepared for the real thing.  However, in many of the TTX I’ve participated in, I find myself just reading verbatim or regurgitating the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) of the organization.  This, in turn, leaves me feeling like in the heat of the moment I’ll be in pretty bad shape if I don’t have time to open up the manual, leaving me discouraged or thinking how unrealistic that exercise was.

There are lots of factors to why a TTX is successful or not, or how much the participants will take away from the exercise.  In my experience one common thing that is lacking in the not so successful exercises is a good visual component.  As humans, we can gather and process more information from a picture than the same scene described in text.  During this webinar I will demonstrate some of the things Depiction can do to add a good visual component (and more) to your next Tabletop Exercise.

National Preparedness Month: LANL uses Depiction

National Preparedness Month is observed each September in the US. It’s a time when Americans take simple steps to prepare for the unknown. Depiction is partaking in this year’s event by featuring Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and how they use Depiction to prepare for such events as wild fire, potential security threats and scenarios on chemical leaks.

This webinar is free to attend! Alan Woodward, EOC Planning Sections Chief at LANL, will highlight several tabletop exercises, scenario simulations and take questions from attendees. This webinar is great for individuals, organizations and companies interested in preparedness planning and consequence assessment. Alan comments that LANL uses Depiction for its “ease of use, flat learning curve, professionalism and fast in-field collaboration capability”.

Attendees will learn how Depiction can be used to create simulations and facilitate ‘in the moment’ cooperation whether for a national laboratory, your neighborhood, fire department, police department, local government organizations or emergency field teams.

Alan Woodward joins us as our guest presenter September 22nd at 10:30am PST. He has worked in the Emergency Operations Division for 10 years as an analyst, emergency planner, and Section chief with over thirteen years experience developing geographic information systems (GIS) and GIS products. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Washington State University (in Physics) and a Master of Science degree from Oklahoma State University (in Plant and Soil Sciences). Currently, he is focused on developing GIS applications for emergency responders that can be used in an EOC or at the site of an emergency.

Also joining in to field questions and provide additional information are Rachel Hixson, Dave McClard and Bill Purtymun.

Rachel Hixson is a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialist with a Master of Arts degree in Geography from Arizona State University.  She is helping to develop the GIS capabilities of LANL’s Emergency Operations Center.  She has also been working on reverse plume modeling for a national bio-surveillance program at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for three years.

Dave McClard works in the EO-EM Group as an Emergency Manager. Current responsibilities: Focus on response management, Emergency Operations Center (EOC) operability, planning and preparedness activities, communication operations, aviation operations, and wildland fire operations. Dave began emergency management work in 1986 as a search and rescue (SAR) pilot and search and rescue trainer. His last five years were spent as the State Emergency Services Director and squadron commander for an auxiliary of the United States Air Force.

Bill Purtymun originally became involved in emergency management as a Firefighter III/ EMT Paramedic.   He graduated from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology with a BS in Geology. He has been employed at Los Alamos National Laboratory since 1989, initially as a Site Safety Officer for a non-reactor nuclear facility.  In the mid 1990’s he became a LANL Emergency Manager and Incident Commander for the Emergency Operations Division.  For the past several years he has worked in Hazard and Consequence Assessment at the LANL Emergency Operations Center.  In his spare time he volunteers with the local ski and mountain bike patrol and is a Nationally Registered Paramedic.   He is currently working on his masters in Emergency Management through Arizona State University.

Join us on September 22nd at 10:30am PST to learn more about how your organization can be better prepared, cross collaborate more efficiently and benefit from the Depiction software platform.

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 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

“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.

#Roseville #Galleria fire/bomb scare depiction

It sounds like things are starting to calm down as the bomb squad clears the building, but here’s a quick depiction of the situation at the Roseville Galleria, with news photos, aerial imagery, the mall floorplan, OpenStreetMap and a bit more. You can view this depiction using the Depiction Reader.

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!

Import ALOHA Plume Now

Without knowing that Bharath is working on integrating ALOHA Plume models into Depiction, one of our users contacted the ALOHA developers and asked them how to export a model as a shapefile. This would allow him (and other users) to import that file into Depiction. The ALOHA team was glad to help, and gave these instructions:

To make your shapefile:
1. Run the scenario and display the threat zone in ALOHA.
2. Open MARPLOT and click on the lat/long where the chemical was released.
3. From the ALOHA Sharing menu in MARPLOT, choose Set Source Point. The ALOHA threat zone is now displayed in MARPLOT with the source point of the release at the lat/long location that you clicked on.
4. In MARPLOT, select the ALOHA threat zone.
5. In MARPLOT File menu, choose Export Overlay Objects.
6. On the Export dialog, choose the Shapefile format. Note that if you have selected both polygon objects (the threat zones) and point objects (the ALOHA source point and/or the ALOHA threat point) you will need to perform separate exports for each type of object.

This assumes that the user is already familiar with ALOHA and MARPLOT, and considering the number of requests we have gotten for this information, many Depiction users are.

The user was also kind enough to send a depiction he then created using this method. I have altered it a bit (changed colors to match the descriptions of red, orange and yellow zones and the icons to our plume icon) for posting a clip here.

ALOHA Plume imported as shapefiles in Depiction

Screen capture of ALOHA/MARPLOT files in Depiction

I hope this will make Depiction all the more useful for our Emergency Management users.

Happy Depicting!


What if I want to map land parcels?

My local volunteer fire department purchased a copy of Depiction asked me to help them with a project.  The fire chief had several things he wanted to do with the software but the first one was to create a map of all of the parcels in the district and then add to it the ownership information.  He had received two files from the local county GIS department: a shape file of all of the parcel boundaries and a database file of the ownership information from the assessor.

The challenge was to get the shape file data loaded and  then geo-code the address data.

The first challenge was to get the shape file loaded.  The main issue here was because of the shape of the fire district in order to get the entire district in one story also meant getting non-district territory included.  This wouldn’t have been a problem but the file from the county was of the entire county and not just the district, so when the shape file was loaded it included the shapes for the non-district territory as well.  Unfortunately this added about 2000 more shapes to the file which of course would have had an performance impact.  So I ended up cutting the district in half and having two files.  I still had non-district shapes but an acceptable number.

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