4 Essential Maps to Have in an Emergency

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Essential Maps for Emergencies

September is National Emergency Preparedness month. Every year throughout the United States there are fires, floods, storms, earthquakes, industrial accidents and even explosions. Sometimes these situations are contained to a small locality where they are easily managed. Other times, emergencies cover large geographic areas and impact the lives of thousands of people. Maps, imagery and GIS have become increasingly important in preparation for and management of emergency situations at federal, state and local levels.

But geospatial tools in an emergency are not just for organizations like FEMA and public safety departments. Individuals have access today to numerous map resources and they could be using them as insurance in the event that a natural or man made disaster should strike in their area. Below are four maps that could give you the upper hand in such a situation.

Home Floor Plan

Every home needs an evacuation plan. A simple pencil sketch of your house will do as you really just need to show the walls and where doors are located. If you want to get more detailed you could use an online floor plan creator like Autodesk Homestyler. Homestyler lets you build detailed, multi-level, 3D floor plans of your home’s interior.

Current Printed Street Map

Google Maps are great for finding the shortest distance by road between locations. Along with other mapping applications like Bing Maps and MapQuest, Google Maps are a good first choice for routing yourself or others to safety. However, you always have to remember that in an emergency situation, Internet and/or cell reception could be disrupted. For this reason, among others, having a printed street map of the city you live in and the surrounding area is a good idea.
Street maps can often be purchased through organizations like AAA or in many gas stations located near the entrances to your city. The local chamber of commerce or visitor center often has maps for free or a low price or they can give you further advice on where to go to get a map. It is true that it is getting harder and harder to find good printed paper maps these days but they are still out there.

Safety Map

Maps are great if you know where you want to go. But in an emergency, unless you have a destination in mind of where you can find help or can meet up with loved ones, a map just shows you many ways to nowhere. At Safety-maps.orgyou can take care of the problem.
            Safety Maps is a free online tool that helps you plan for this situation. You can use it to choose a safe meeting place, print a customized map that specifies where it is, and share this map with your loved ones.
Safety-maps.org is a great site that is simple to use but serves a great purpose. Making a safety map is extremely easy. You just search for the area you live in (I used a zip code), position a green cross hair on the place designated for meeting and type a message or directions. Then you create your map and print it. You can fold several copies of the map for different people in your family so each will have one no matter where they are or what the situation.

US Road Map

Having a major roads map (or a US road atlas) can help you relocate once you are out of your local area if you need to evacuate quickly. A national level map is also handy for determining the location of disasters outside of your area. Rand McNally is one of the best known makers of quality road atlases.
There you go, four maps that could mean the difference in surviving an emergency situation. Are you prepared? Are there any you would add?

Could GIS be Killing You?

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If you are a GIS professional there is a good possibility that you are slowly shaving time off your lifespan. What is this malady you might ask, and can it be prevented by moving to open source? If only it were that simple.
Several studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time can increase a person’s chances of dying from a heart attack by more than 50%. That is a scary fact that should get you thinking about what you can do to prevent it. Here are a couple of things you can do right now to reduce the risks associated with a sedentary job:
Sitting Kills
  1. Stand up! At least try to as much as possible. While the effects of sitting can be cumulative, interrupting your sitting periods can be beneficial.
  2. Use a standing desk. If you are in a work environment that will permit it, standing to do your work can make you feel better, make you burn more calories and of course and take care of the “sitting is bad” for you problem. If the cost of a standing desk is not something your employer will consider, you can always raise your monitors and keyboard with books or other objects.
  3. If you’re stuck using a regular desk you can always use a DeskCycle under the desk. This will keep your legs moving and blood circulating. Your rate of calorie burning will increase as well.
  4. Sit on an exercise ball. They are great for strengthening the lower back and you can always fall back into a couple of sit-ups when the fancy strikes.
  5. Collect GIS field data. If GPS data collection is part of your organization’s workflow, see if you can add that into your schedule a couple of times a week. You will be moving, burning calories and staying healthy.
  6. Exercise at your desk. You can red this DIYLife article to get some great ideas for keeping your body in motion throughout the day.
The lesson to take away from this is to keep moving. Regardless of you office situation there are probably things you can do to put a little motion into your day.

AFCEA Tracks Geospatial Intelligence

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The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving military, government, academia and private industry. The association’s name centers on communications and electronics but under this broad umbrella are many varied disciplines and professional fields represented.

One such field is information systems technology. The April 2012 issue of SIGNAL, AFCEA’s monthly news magazine takes a closer look at geospatial information systems and their impact on today’s intelligence gathering efforts. While the articles in the current issue focus on the use of GIS for military intelligence gathering, they are useful for GIS users in all GIS communities. Developments, technologies and trends that begin at a national level often morph into public oriented applications that benefit downstream users. You can read the current issue of SIGNAL online and discover the other free tools AFCEA offers of their we site like their blog and e-newsletter.

Membership in AFCEA was once the privilege only of members of the military. Today, anyone with an interest in technology can join and take advantage of benefits like networking opportunities, educational discounts and product discounts through Dell and HP.

I have been a member of AFCEA for over four years now and consider it a top notch professional organization. Check it out and let me know what you think.