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.
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!
Silvia Estrada-Flores is a Depiction user and an expert in the food industry supply chain who lives in Australia. Naturally, she has been very concerned about the major flooding occurring in the state of Queensland–and, specifically, about the way the flooding is affecting grocery stores in the area.
Silvia used Depiction to first run rough simulations of the flooding and potential flooding in and around Brisbane, Queensland, using ASTER-GDEM elevation data (because she was unable to get access to the higher quality data generated by the government), and then to depict the situation facing the grocery stores in the area. She also used Depiction’s geoaligning capability to show the official flooding predictions in relation to grocery stores.
Silvia writes, “Today, I can just reassure consumers in Brisbane that there will be stores open around you. I am hoping that this map shows the areas where consumers can purchase supplies in these confusing times.” She will be writing more in the near future on the challenges of maintaining the supply chain in this situation, so pay attention to her blog, Chain of Events, if this information is important to you.
Even if you are not specifically concerned with the response of the food industry supply chain to disasters (though if you eat any food yourself, you may want to think on it at least a little!), I think Silva’s work illustrates a couple broader points. First, this is exactly the kind of thing Depiction was built for–giving powerful tools to subject-matter experts like Silvia, who may not have any experience with or access to GIS technology, but who have a need to depict the world around them in rapidly changing situations. Very few people have both the skills and resources to use high-end GIS and modelling software and the expert-level knowledge and experience in something like food industry supply chain management. And yet that field, and many others like it, have a real and abiding need for location-based knowledge, situational awareness, and the ability to ask “what if” about their community. We are very proud that Silvia was able to use Depiction to gain insights into the situation in Brisbane, and that Depiction users across the world are doing similar things within their own fields of expertise, without having to be mapping technology experts.
Second, the situation reminds us of the need for collaboration across boundaries. In her first blog post, Sylvia mentions her frustration with the unavailability of good quality elevation data:
It was difficult to find freely available information on elevation data. This can create difficulties for those planners dealing with emergency preparations that are not necessarily acting on behalf of the Government. I am aware of the National Elevation Data Framework portal, but I could not find elevation data for Queensland that is readily accessible. The process for downloading information (even in those cases where data happens to be free) is slow, due to the requirements of data licensing and so on. Not really useful when you are in a hurry to see flood damages and impact…
Here in the States, we are fortunate to have the USGS, which provides a relatively user-friendly method of obtaining good quality elevation data at multiple resolution levels through the Seamless Data Warehouse. This has allowed us to make US elevation data available as a Quickstart data set in Depiction. However, that is not the case in most parts of the world, and even here in the USA, many other crucial datasets are out of reach, depending on the locality. As Silvia notes, this presents major problems for people who are attempting to prepare for or respond to a disaster, among other things. Governments who are looking for an easy way to bolster the assistance that can be provided by the private sector during a disaster might think about making their GIS data easily accessible by the public.
One of our new users, Russell Deffner, also happens to be a writer with a GIS-related minor. He wrote the following article for The Flume, his local paper in Park County, Colorado. The paper recently published an article he wrote about a new state park being developed in the area. A PDF of the article is attached. Images Russell created with Depiction are excerpted below.
Thanks for sharing, Russell, and a fine use for Depiction!
The article: Staunton0001
We have a new news release out about a very cool way that our local YMCA used Depiction in their capital expansion plan for the next 20 years. Depiction enabled them to easily put all the information they needed into a single display, including populations, population forecasts, schools and more. The Vice President of Operations had some very nice things to say about Depiction:
“YMCA facilities and programs are resources we utilize to strengthen the very core of community foundations within our county. Depiction, with its ease of use and affordable price point, enabled YMCA staff and volunteers to assimilate a variety of data sources both efficiently and effectively and aided in executing strategic decisions that will yield positive impact on our communities for years to come.”
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.