Natural Disasters

Are you ready for a 9.0 earthquake?

Check out this article about how “Patrick Corcoran’s  job every day is to go out into the world to tell people to prepare to meet their doom. Or, rather, to prepare to escape it.

Interesting Paper on GIS and Emergency Management by Dr John Pine of LSU

We have posted an interesting paper by DR. John Pine of LSU on the use of GIS in Emergency Management.  You can find it here.

In this paper Dr. Pine explores how a geographic information system (GIS) can be used to assist emergency managers in planning for and responding to emergencies. This includes creating situational awareness and common operating pictures.  Of course we think Depiction software is a great affordable and easy to use tool for Emergency Managers.

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.

“The Full-Rip Nine”

Thanks to Carol Dunn and King 5 News, I spent the morning reading this remarkable article by Bruce Barcott on the potential for a massive earthquake in the Cascadia subduction zone. He outlines, in dramatic fashion, potential effects from a 9.0 quake that runs up and down the coast of the Pacific Northwest. (You can learn more about these risks, in a more visual medium, from the excellent documentary Cascadia: The Hidden Fire).

Since the Depiction offices are located right in the midst of the region, this is obviously fairly important to us here, both personally and professionally. And as Carol pointed out on Twitter, “Reading is a good start, but action is the way to reduce harm.”

FEMA has some excellent advice on that score here. You should also build a disaster plan–and Depiction is a particularly good tool for doing that visually.

One of the hazards Barcott mentions is “liquefaction”:

In Seattle and Portland, the strong shaking begins to induce liquefaction, a process in which the sandy soil that portions of both cities are built on turns into a thick, slurry-like liquid. Parts of Portland rest atop sediment laid down by the Willamette River, and Seattle’s water­front sits on tidal flats overtopped by loose fill. In a quake, this unconsolidated fill loses its ability to support heavy structures.

The downtown areas aren’t the only places at risk from liquefaction, though. I put together a depiction that includes liquefaction risk for much of the Puget sound region (7.15 mb). There are many large areas, but also pockets of risk scattered all across the region. (This isn’t the only hazard you should be watching for–see Barcott’s discussion of unreinforced-masonry buildings as well–but it’s a place to start.) If you don’t have Depiction, you can explore the above file with the Depiction free reader.
More >

Mapping Hurricane Irene

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Hurricane Irene is bearing down on the US East Coast, and there a lot of places around the Web where you can track its progress. If you need something that will still be available offline, or you want to be able to integrate your own data along with information about the hurricane, then Depiction is the tool for you. The above video goes over the steps for bringing in the latest satellite imagery and path predictions for Irene.

Here’s a quick overview:

  • Create a new depiction that encompasses most or all of the US East Coast. Don’t worry about the warning about the depiction size–just don’t try to bring in road networks or elevation at this level.
  • Go to the add menu, select Web Services, and then select WMS from the dropdown menu.
  • Put this URL in the text bar and click Show Content:
  • In the Content list, scroll down to the GOES Visible Image. Select that, choose Auto-detect from the element list and click Add.
  • This will load the latest satellite image of the region into your depictio and put it into a revealer.
  • You will probably want to size your revealer to cover your entire region, then turn its transparency up to the maximum and lock it in place.
  • To get the latest hurricane projections, go to and click on the “Hurricane IRENE .shp” link to download a zip file.
  • Unzip the file to your computer, then, one at a time, drag and drop the files that end in “5day_pgn.shp”, “5day_lin.shp” and “5day_pts.shp”, adding each of them as ‘Auto-detect’.
  • These will bring in the projected path, the ‘cone of uncertainty’ and key points along the path.
  • If you want to use the hurricane icon for the points that I used in the video, it’s available in the Homeland Security Natural Events icon pack–or you can use any other image you may have or want.
  • Key properties for the points are DATEBL, which gives the time for the projection, TCDVLP, or what type of storm is projected to be present at the time (hurricane vs. major hurricane vs. tropical storm, etc.), SSNUM which, I believe, refers to the category (or strength) of the hurricane, and MAXWIND, which gives the highest projected 1-minute average wind at that point.

      You can now explore the data that you’ve imported, or add your own data (spreadsheets, images, other shapefiles, etc.), either to satisfy your curiosity, or to make plans in regards to how you are going to respond to the storm.

Hurricane Biz – an online tabletop business continuity webinar

Hurricane BizOn September 13, Depiction, Inc. and the Disaster Resistant Communities Group, two of the companies behind the Formidable Footprint series of national neighborhood tabletop exercises, are offering businesses in hurricane-prone regions an opportunity to assess the capabilities and capacity of their disaster response plan in regards to a hurricane.

During the exercise, management and staff will have the opportunity to work together as a unified disaster response team. The team will work through the various activities associated with preparing for, then responding to and recovering from, a category two hurricane. Whether you have a disaster plan in place that you want to assess, or if you are looking for a compelling reason develop one, “Hurricane Biz” will provide you with both the tools and experience to help you reach your goal.

The exercise will be facilitated online using the ON-Line eXercise (ONX) System, and will also make use of Depiction’s mapping capabilities to help businesses better create plans that take their unique geographic location into account. To learn more, visit

Formidable Footprint Featured on Dallas TV

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We’re very proud to be a part of the Formidable Footprint national neighborhood exercises, and this video says a little about why. Watch for a glimpse of Depiction at 0:25!

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

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.