Unified Mapping System Slow To Take Hold
Four years before Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) adopted the National Grid mapping system for use in emergencies in cases where street-markers and street signs have been blown down, drowned, or disabled during a catastrophic event.
However, there has not been systematic training in the use of the National Grid, and this was evident during Hurricane Katrina rescue missions. Many local teams could not access or use this technology, and many FEMA teams used maps brought in from Washington, D.C., rather than the National Grid mapping system.
Delta State University Professor Talbot Brooks found that, in the aftermath of Katrina, FEMA’s mapping specialist at a Jackson, Miss., emergency center lacked the necessary software to create and distribute any maps.
The National Grid uses satellite imagery to find coordinates according to a 15-digit unique grid address that covers every spot in the United States. All GPS units have access to National Grid coordinates, but not all local first responders possess GPS units.
In addition, rescue workers also discovered that the U.S. military uses its own set of coordinate language for mapping. This made communicating locations between rescue and military teams difficult.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from GovExec.com (05/06); Sperlongano, Jessica.