User Stories

How to create your own background tiler.

A few weeks back I posted how a German fire department was using Depiction.  He had discovered a way to take maps and make them into background tiles.  He has written a paper on how he did that and has graciously allowed me to share it. You can find it here.

A user story.

Recently a long term Depiction user wrote to me how she was using Depiction.  She uses it for a variety of different and unusual reasons and just shows how flexible Depiction is and as she points out is ‘more than mapping”.

I am not a GIS expert. The concept of a story was puzzling to me and using maps was just as puzzling. After I retired I wanted to write stories about my family and activities. At first I thought I needed to have a file with a name for my stories. After using Depiction for awhile I found that using maps was far better as one can remember much easier the people in the story by the places they have lived at or been to. I can insert pictures and copy large amounts of information into my Depictions. I can use Depiction for my personal preparedness which is always there when I want to access it because the information is saved in a Depiction on my computer. I can use Depiction to plot out locations and scenarios when I see major news stories. I find it much easier to add a location as Depiction places the location directly on the map.

With Malaysia Flight 370 in the news, I used Depiction to follow what was going on. It was so much easier than using the online maps which are too “busy” for me. Since I already had the Depiction on Flight 370 saved to my computer, I did not have to recreate the maps again which made it much easier to follow. I could just open up my Depiction each day and add information. Using the coordinates and locations given on the news, I was able to follow along to see what was going on and make my guess as to where the plane was. With the elements available I was able to key in important information. Using the Route elements I was able to see the distance involved which helped to see where the plane might be located.

Depiction is more than Mapping. It is fun to create maps, write notes, and visualize what could happen in familiar surroundings. It is like a game for me sometimes such as searching for treasures. I have used Depiction work on contests for locating treasures. All the info I key is right there and I can continue again without having to take notes again as they are already there which has saved an enormous amount of time. I can use Depiction as an address book. I just key in names, addresses and other info and I know where it is because it is in the location my Depiction is saved so I don’t forget. Using my home address to start I put in addresses for people all over. I just key in an address and Depiction locates it for me. I then use the element properties for keying in all the information.

Now I am retired and look forward to using Depiction for writing my stories! I hope all of you that are using Depiction,  enjoy it as much as I do.

Video of Depiction Webinar by Michael Craig of Pemstar now available.

This webinar was about how Michael Craig used Depiction more than mapping software during the planning for and as a common operating picture and situational awareness tool to support the New Jersey MACC for the SuperBowl 48. You can watch it here.

April 22nd Webinar – Michael Craig and the Big Game

Please join us on Tuesday April 22nd, 2014 at Noon PST/3pm EST for another informative Depiction 101 webinar.

The webinar will be how Michael Craig, Owner of PEMSTAR was asked to be the GIS Technical Specialist for the MACC (multi-agency coordination system) for SuperbOwl 48. The MACC is the fusion center for all emergency medical and health service. It was assigned to monitor, support and coordinate all incidents within New Jersey and New York. Michael Craig used Depiction as his primary GIS mapping software. Michael used almost all the assets that Depiction has to offer, publish to web, live reports, customizable elements creation and more. The Department of Health and Human Services, FDNY, New Jersey EMS task force, FEMA and the New Jersey Department of Health were just some of the event participants. During the week of the SuperbOwl, Michael Craig not only had to coordinate the SuperbOwl events but a quarantined cruise ship, and a large number of white powder incidents.

If there is time available we will also be available to answer general questions.

You can register here.

Email from a German Fire Department using Depiction

Hi Richard,

I want to give you some information of our first “proof of ability” of the Depiction software we bought some time ago.

The county Freudenstadt (115 055 inhabitants, 870.68 km² area)

did a region wide exercise with a simulated winter storm event.

The proposed situation was that a winter storm with heavy snowfall and strong wind crossed the county.

Rising temperatures and beginning rain complicated the situation.

The local fire brigades are confronted with flooded roads and cellars, damaged buildings, traffic accidents and so on.

The dispatchers of the rescue coordination center (red cross/fire dept.) were faced with over 560 calls for help during the 5h exercise.

Over 850 firemen were sent out to help the resident population.

The fire brigade from Dornstetten used the Depiction software to manage the 36 events in their municipal area.

The incoming tasks were put into the depiction and geolocated automatically.

We used a user created element for representing a tasks location.

The ongoing state of such a task was shown by different colors.

Red: -new alert

Yellow: -work in progress

Green: -work done

The vehicles assigned to that tasks, were placed at the task areas location, when the message from the crew came to our local headquarter, that they start their work there.

So we were able to keep control over our resources and open tasks without any problem.

Our mobile command center was used as telecommunication center. All decisions were taken in the so called “Führungshaus”.

This was installed in our fire station. There we run the depiction software on a laptop with a connected beamer to have an actual operation picture available.

A second Depiction application in our mobile command center was updated via the Live Report function.

So the guys in the field were informed about the ongoing efforts nearly in real time.

This was the first time we used Depiction under real life crisis conditions and it worked like we expected.

Best regards,

Frank Ruegner

Some feedback from a customer in Maine

Our ARES/CERT Communications group used the Depiction software this past weekend for the first time. It is amazing. The ability to go from topographical, street and satellite imagery is amazing. We were able to track our groups along tree lines and in fields as they did their search. In Maine we had a girl about 20 months old that disappeared during the night. Her father says that someone took her but there was no evidence to support that. The police have done multiple searches for her but have had no luck. There was someone in the home town where the girl disappeared that had seen a car at a business that was closed and he had reported it to the police. They did not search the area where he saw the car. He asked for our help and we responded to his needs. We spent about 5 hours searching an area about 100 to 150 acres. The software along with our Byonics  All in One Trackers was a great mix to allow for accurate viewing of the search and the ability to post positions of interest that we came across. We used Depiction along with APRS Live to accomplish this. There are a few things I would like to see changed for search and rescue use but it is way better than anything that we have had until now.

Thought you might like to hear about our use of your software. Keep up the good work.

Thank you

Bob Gould

Oxford County ARES/CERT Communications

Oxford County IMAT

Maine Communications Unit Leader

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.

Flooding in Queensland, Australia, depicted

Brisbane Flooding & Supermarkets

Brisband Flooding and Supermarkets, by Silvia Estrada Flores, using ASTER-GDEM elevation data, OpenStreetMap imagery, Depiction, and information from many sources.

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.

“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.

User-submitted public service depiction available for download

Last weekend, Depiction user Dennis Conklin, AI8P, coordinated 45 amateur radio users running communications for the Tour de Cure fundraiser event south of Cleveland. Dennis then submitted his depiction to us, and we’ve placed it for preview and download on the Depiction Downloads page, as a great example of a how Depiction can be used during such public service events.

Here’s what Dennis had to say about the event in our forum:

This is a very complex biking event which features a 100K ride, a 50K Difficult ride, a 50K Moderate ride, and a 25K ride. The starts are staggered so that most rides are completed near the same time. This means that 4 rides are ongoing simultaneously. There are about 50 stations on the various routes which are manned by Amateur radio operators. We ran 2 separate nets and I used custom icons to code each station for which net it was on. Some parts of some routes overlay, but generally there are several different routes that have to be tracked and the first rider and last rider need to be identified for each. I have worked the Net Control for this event for several years, and I never really felt that I had the level of Situational Awareness that I desired. This year I had everything mapped in depiction and I was much more aware of exactly was going on and what the implications were. I was able to immediately know when stations could be closed. Also, I could mark each station as INACTIVE when it closed, which was a great visual feedback on the status.

Many people came by and were impressed by the zoomable map and the ability to display street names or aerial photography….

A fabulous advantage – terrific Situational Awareness was achieved by using depiction.

Dennis also writes, “I couldn’t even spell GIS before I got your program, so you can certainly make the point that a non-GIS person can do substantial work with your program.” That’s what we like to hear!

And he’s has been busy recently–he’s only had the software for a couple months, but he’s already made a presentation to his local ARES group about the software.

If you’d like to submit your own depiction to be profiled on our Downloads page, just click here!