Posts tagged Map Your Neighborhood

Depiction Announces Free Software to Red Cross Chapters

This week we announced that we were offering 3 free copies of our Depiction 1.4.3 mapping software along with the Preparedness Add-on  a $660 value to every Red Cross Chapter in the world.  All they have to do is send us an email requesting the software from an official Red Cross email address and information about the chapter they are from and we will send them a coupon code.  We think our software is a great fit for the great work the Red Cross does and realized that because of budget restraints they weren’t always able to take advantage of it. So we decided as a public service we would make this contribution to the Red Cross to help them better serve their communities.  Send your request to

April 24th Webinar Video Now Available

In case you missed the April 24th webinar presented by Russ Deffner on using DepictionPrep and Depiction for personal and family preparedness, the recording is now available on our website and can be found here.

La Quinta Emergency Preparedness Kits

The City of La Quinta CA is a long time Depiction/DepictionPrep user and has a very active Neighborhood preparedness program. Paul Hess the emergency services coordinator for the city recently sent me info on some new kits they have available.

The City of La Quinta has now announced the release of the New La Quinta PREP Emergency Preparedness Kits:

The City of La Quinta is making it easier than ever to get prepared for an earthquake or other community emergency! Now, the new

La Quinta PREP Emergency Preparedness Kits are available to the public from our City web site:

We have worked hard with the great staff at More Prepared to create this family, vehicle, and Workplace

Emergency Preparedness starter kit that follows our PREP Neighborhood Preparedness guidelines including:

  1. Emergency Water Supplies (To be added by the purchaser according to PREP handout instructions)
  2. Bandaging Supplies for more than a dozen people
  3. Tools including Flashlight, Lantern, & AM/FM radio, pry bar, and hand tools
  4. La Quinta PREP booklets and handouts

We are very excited to have this La Quinta PREP Emergency Preparedness Kit available to the public commercially. You can add anything else you want to customize the La Quinta PREP Kit for your family, neighborhood, HOA, vehicle or work location. We believe it is reasonably priced and is a great convenience to all of our responders, volunteers, and residents. Just add water, and you are ready for any emergency! Remember to have a starter kit at home, in your vehicles, and at your work or day location. For more information on the La Quinta PREP Program and Kit please contact Paul Hess, our Emergency Services Coordinator at 760-777-7061 or at

(Note: the City of La Quinta does not profit from the sale of these kits. They are provided as a public service to increase family and neighborhood preparedness)

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.

Why export data to a CSV file.

In our recent Depiction 101 Q&A webinar  ( of our customers asked the question about why one would want to export data to a CSV file if they had already imported it.  It was a good question and I came up with at least 5 reasons one might want to do that:

  1. Backup your data in a pre-geocoded format.
  2. If you moved elements to their geographically correct location, to save them in case you have to reload the elements at some point.
  3. To more easily make mass changes to the elements.
  4. To backup a subset of a large shape file.
  5. To change a shape file property to EID in order to merge data with it.

I wanted to elaborate a bit more on those reasons.

1. Backup your data in a pre-geocoded format.

When you import a CSV file with addresses.  Depiction goes out to the USC geo-coder and gets the latitude and longitude for each address and places the appropriate icon at that location.  Once you have done this, if you export those elements to a CSV file then they will include the lat/long of each element.  This way if you ever have to reload those elements or want to share them with somebody else, then the file won’t have to be geo-coded the next time. If you have a large CSV file this can save some time. It helps us too because every time you geo-code an address it costs us a few cents.

2. If you moved elements to their geographically correct location, to save them in case you have to reload the elements at some point.

This second item is similar to the first but with a little twist.  When the geo-coder geo-codes an address it will usually get it to the right block but not necessarily on the right lot in the block.  The reason for this is that if you an address of lets say 2025 main st, the geo-coder thinks that the address range for that block is 2000 to 2099. It calculates that 25 is one fourth of 99 and so it places the icon 1/4 of the way down that block.  Where in reality the real address range may be 2000 to 2032 and so the icon really should be at 9/10’s of the way down the block.  So if it is important to you to have the icons in the exact location you will have to go in and move each one.  Now if for some reason you have to reload that original  file then you are going to have to move all of those icons again.  Unless you had first exported it to a CSV file, in which case the program would have saved the new lat/long for each element.  So if you have to move a lot of icons to their geographically correct locations then backing them up to a CSV file is a really good idea.

3. To more easily make mass changes to the elements.

If you are using Depiction as a data base manager and are storing a lot of data along with each element, sometimes it is easier to make changes to the data in a spreadsheet program. So if you export them to a CSV file you can edit them in the spreadsheet program and then reload them.

4. To backup a subset of a large shape file.

A fairly new feature to Depiction in the 1.3 series is the ability to export shape files to a csv file.  So to give a specific example of when you might use this.  I was working with a community that was attempting to do a community wide map your neighborhood exercise.  One person had the entire community and a shape file was loaded that had all of the parcel boundaries for the community.  Using the shape drawing tool, we drew the neighborhood boundaries for all of the neighborhoods.  Then using the select tool we selected all of parcel shapes that were in a particular neighborhood. Then using the export to CSV function we exported the selected shapes to a CSV file.  Then we could start a new Depiction story and import that CSV file and we would have a depiction for just that neighborhood.  That file could then be given to the neighborhood coordinator who could use DepictionPrep to load the file and then make the appropriate changes and maps for their neighborhood.

5. To change a shape file property to EID in order to merge data with it.

This is really a neat feature.  Before we could export shapes to a CSV file this particular task was fairly complicated.

So lets say you have a shape file of zip codes and you also have some tabular data based on zip codes. In this tabular data  file you have the zip code and lets say median income, population, etc.  You want to be able to colorize your zip codes based on this numeric data. But how do you get the tabular data into the zip code shape elements. Here is a step by step process:

  1. Import your shape file
  2. Delete unwanted shapes (if necessary)
  3. Export your shapes to a CSV file
  4. Open the CSV file
  5. Change the property name of your key field i.e. zip code to EID and save the file
  6. In your depiction delete the shapes
  7. Re-import your CSV file of shapes
  8. Open your spreadsheet of data that you wish to merge.
  9. In our example we are saying the key field is Zip Code so in this file change the name of the zip code field to EID.
  10. Delete any other properties that aren’t of interest and then save that file
  11. In your Depiction chose Add by File and chose your csv file
  12. Select import by EID and then select Import – the data in this file will now be merged with the data in the shape file based on zip code
  13. Now if you open a shape element you should see the data fields you just imported and you can now colorize the shapes based on those fields.

Here are view other tips when dealing with CSV files.

TIP #1 – When you export elements it is best to export just one kind of element to a CSV file.  If you export multiple element types at once then you will get all of the properties for all of the elements in your resulting file, which is OK. But when you go to re-import that file all of the elements will have all of the properties of all of the elements which is probably not what you wanted.

TIP #2 - When you export to CSV it includes all of the default properties, any properties you have added and a bunch of depiction descriptive fields.  If you want can delete all of the descriptive fields to make the file easier to work with. We are looking to add a feature in a later release that would allow you to not have these fields show up on the export.

TIP #3 - If you are exporting a shape file and the shape is a fairly complex polygon it is possible that the number of points in that polygon will exceed the total amount of characters allowed in a single cell. In this particular situation we don’t have a solution to this and that shape may not be able to be re-imported properly.

I hope you find this information useful and feel free to send me any questions you have on any of it.

Earthquake in Indiana

A magnitude 3.8 earthquake shook Indiana just north of Indianapolis this morning, apparently causing little damage. Read this article for more details. The USGS has data posted here, though it apparently hasn’t been reviewed yet. This makes the Formidable Footprint (January) and Great Shakeout (April) exercises coming up seem very well timed.

I downloaded the USGS shapefile and did a quick depiction of the MMI (a relative intensity index). Indianapolis is to the south and Fort Wayne to the Northeast in this image.

Depicting the epicenter and relative feel of the quake

Depicting the epicenter and relative feel of the quake

Drop me a line if you’d like more info on how I depicted this.

Depiction encourages all our staff, readers and users to prepare for the hazards in your area. For more info, visit

Have a safe and happy New Year!

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.; 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.

Mapping Your Neighborhood video

One of the great ways people can use Depiction during National Preparedness Month is in mapping key people and locations in their neighborhood to prepare for a disaster. Watch the video below, and then register for next Wednesday’s webinar to learn more!

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Map Your Neighborhood & Depiction

Last fall all of our neighbors gathered for a Map Your Neighborhood meeting. I live in a rural neighborhood of 1 to 5 acre lots in the San Juan Islands. The information was collected and a month or so later I received a hand drawn map with house #’s and approx locations and propane tank locations. After I got a copy of Depiction I thought it would be a perfect application for this. So I created an excel file and entered the names and addresses of all of the neighbors along with their skill sets and resources they had. I then saved that file as a CSV file.

Then I made a copy of that file and eliminated the skill set info and replaced it with Propane tank size and then saved that file. I opened up depiction and created a story for our neighborhood. I created a new element for Propane tanks and found an icon on the internet doing a google search for propane tank icon. The aerial photo that Depiction brought in wasn’t very current so I went out to Google maps and did a print screen of the same area. I opened the image in Picasa and cropped it to show the area I wanted and then saved it as a JPG. Then I imported that image as an image file in Depiction and then geo-aligned it (see this tutorial for details). I also had a parcel map jpg of the island which I opened in Picassa an cropped down to the area I wanted and saved it. I imported it as an image file and geo-aligned it. Then I imported my two excel files.

Since I only had property addresses the geocoding didn’t place the icons in the exact locations, since the Tiger file only approximates the location based on street number. So next I moved each house icon to the location of the houses and the propane icons to the location of the propane tanks. When I was done I had a much more accurate visualization of the neighborhood with more exact locations and an easily update able spreadsheet of neighborhood information. All in all I think Depiction is a perfect fit for Map Your Neighborhood.