Topic Name: GTRI develops Mapping tool allows emergency management personnel to visually track resources
Category: Geo sciences & technology
Research persons: Kirk Pennywitt
Location: Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), United States
Tracking the location and availability of resources such as hospitals,
transportation equipment and water during an emergency situation can be
A collaborative mapping tool developed by the Georgia
Tech Research Institute (GTRI) is helping emergency management officials
better coordinate event and incident planning – and real-time response.
GTRI has teamed with Atlanta-based company Emergency
Visions to provide mapping capabilities for a resource database the firm
developed to identify, activate, track and coordinate response assets. The GTRI
and Emergency Visions applications were selected by the Florida
Division of Emergency Management in June 2007 as part of a solution that
combines these comprehensive technology tools with the training and management
expertise of a team led by the International
City/County Management Association (ICMA).
“A lot of mapping systems are pretty complex to operate. Our system was
deliberately designed to be easy to use for people who are not mapping
experts,” said Kirk Pennywitt, a senior research engineer in GTRI’s
Information Technology and Telecommunications Laboratory (ITTL).
Researchers began developing the Geographic Tool for Visualization and
Collaboration (GTVC) in 2000 for military applications, but it has since been
tailored to the needs of the emergency management community and first
GTVC can track chemical or smoke plumes and help management personnel plan
evacuation routes for emergencies such as hurricanes, fires or flooding. To do
this, the system tracks resources including the locations of hospitals, fire
stations, schools, nursing homes, sand bags, dump trucks, water, personnel and
supplies in an affected region. The map can also indicate the status of those
assets, such as the number of beds available in a specific hospital.
Emergency planners can immediately get a snapshot of what is going on without
relying solely on traditional voice communications. The symbols displayed on the
map are the Department
of Homeland Security’s official emergency management icons.
During an event, electronic feeds can alert users to new incidents and
display the location of the events live on the map. Also, GTVC records every
user’s actions so that those in command can review them after the event to
improve planning for future events.
Pennywitt’s software development team spent two months improving GTVC to
provide Florida with new capabilities – including real-time tracking of
resources. Researchers also included the ability to:
- Track mobile assets with the global positioning system (GPS)
- Manage warehouse resources
- Display real-time availability of a resource
- Aggregate multiple resources in the same location with a single icon
- Simultaneously show location coordinates in multiple formats, such as
latitude/longitude and military grid reference system
- Update the status of a resource by clicking on its map icon as an
alternative to using the database interface
“We will soon be adding an option to allow users to provide their own
custom topographic, photographic or aerial maps,” explained Pennywitt.
Currently, users can view street maps, aerial imagery or a combination of both.
The combined mapping and database system provides Florida with a robust
networked emergency management system that it plans to implement in all 67 of
the state’s counties.
The Georgia Emergency Management Agency has been using the system since 2005
to track forest fires and hurricanes. Hillsborough County, Florida and Dakota
County, Minnesota have also licensed the emergency management software for their
incident preparedness plans.
“We’ve also had interest from more than 100 other cities, counties and
local agencies,” added Pennywitt.
Note for Global Positioning System
The Global Positioning System (GPS) is the only fully functional Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). Utilizing a constellation of at least 24 Medium Earth Orbit satellites that transmit precise microwave signals, the system enables a GPS receiver to determine its location, speed, direction, and time. Other similar systems are the Russian GLONASS (incomplete as of 2007), the upcoming European Galileo positioning system, the proposed COMPASS navigation system of China, and IRNSS of India.
Developed by the United States Department of Defense, GPS is officially named NAVSTAR GPS (Contrary to popular belief, NAVSTAR is not an acronym, but simply a name given by Mr. John Walsh, a key decision maker when it came to the budget for the GPS
program). The satellite constellation is managed by the United States Air Force 50th Space Wing. The cost of maintaining the system is approximately US$750 million per
year, including the replacement of ageing satellites, and research and development.
Following the shootdown of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 in 1983, President Ronald Reagan issued a directive making the system available for free for civilian use as a common
good. Since then, GPS has become a widely used aid to navigation worldwide, and a useful tool for map-making, land surveying, commerce, and scientific uses. GPS also provides a precise time reference used in many applications including scientific study of earthquakes, and synchronization of telecommunications networks.
Note for Geographic Tool for Visualization and Collaboration
The Geographic Tool for Visualization and Collaboration (GTVC) is a Java-based client-server application that provides collaborative mission planning, rehearsal, recording, and playback capabilities. The system allows multiple users in different locations to perform real-time operations and exercise planning, and provides a live view of situational status when responding to an emergency or crisis situation. The GTVC supports the Georgia Office of Homeland Security in its defense and preparedness mission, and was used to track protestor and law enforcement activities during the G-8 Summit in Sea Island, GA, during June 8-10, 2004.
The GTVC combines a powerful and flexible mapping engine with an easy to use interface for adding symbols, graphics, and text annotations to maps, imagery, or drawings to indicate planned actions. All actions and accompanying discussions are recorded and time-stamped for later retrieval and playback, thus capturing a complete plan or mission in addition to the final end state. A full accountability record of the actions performed by each user is continuously maintained by the system.
In figure 1, Kirk Pennywitt, a senior research engineer in the Georgia Tech
Research Institute, demonstrates GTVC, a mapping tool selected by the Florida
Division of Emergency Management as part of a solution for incident planning and
In figure 2, A mapping tool that allows emergency management personnel to
visually track resources such as hospitals and water.