Global Geospatial Solutions (GGS) is a GIS firm with a vision of bringing GIS knowledge and tools to solve important challenges of its clients. Founder Fran Harvey started using GIS on the job while working for the Department of Environmental Quality, applying GIS to air quality management. Today, GGS helps customers deploy GIS solutions, for disaster response and commercial applications, while Global Geospatial Institute (GGI), a non-profit sister company, helps introduce GIS technology into education programs.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Fran was contracted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), through FEMA, to assist with emergency rescue response. She was tasked with the responsibility of creating a search and rescue grid that would be scalable from the Louisiana state level to the ground level. The grid needed to enable people walking the streets, or traveling on boats in flooded areas, to perform search and rescue, even when the network was down. At the time, LDWF were only able to use intercom and flashlights to communicate, and the wildlife and fisheries response team helping during Katrina only had phone book zip code pages to determine locations.
There is no doubt that emergency communications have been greatly enhanced by Internet and mobile technology, helping governments communicate instantly via web, Facebook and Twitter. But when it comes to catastrophic disasters, the network isn’t typically there when it’s needed most; and it certainly can’t be relied upon for response and recovery efforts. That creates a bit of a paradox when it comes to leveraging the latest mobile technology in disaster response scenarios.
Fran found an easier way to get the job done. Several people at City of Hammond at the administration level downloaded TerraGo’s free GeoPDF Toolbar plug-in from the website, and found it a perfect fit for the job. It didn’t require a lot of training and was easy to use. It allowed GIS analysts to include a large quantity of valuable GIS information in a PDF map. This intuitive map could be used by non-GIS users who didn’t have access to GIS software. Most importantly, this map worked perfectly without a network connection
Because GeoPDF is a PDF, it made it easier for people to understand how to utilize and share this standard file type. Rescue workers and volunteers didn’t need to learn GIS to be able to use GeoPDF. Yet they had online, interactive access to all the location data and information they needed to get the job done. And they could all use, share and update GeoPDF maps using free software.
After achieving so much success using the GeoPF Toolbar, GGS began to use TerraGo’s Composer and Publisher software, as well. The field-proven, industry standard GeoPDF technology gave GGS the ability to create an index and data-driven pages “mapped” to the index so that they could easily navigate around the state and know all of the grid cells in the state, which grid cell they were in, and their exact location at any given moment through the index PDF.
The use of TerraGo products has had a huge impact on the City of Hammond’s community, and has provided internal and external users (city employees and citizens) with powerful GIS solutions. The introduction of TerraGo’s technology into this small town has been the turning point in bringing them advanced GIS capabilities, transforming planning, maintenance and operations. The user-friendly ability of the GeoPDF technology has led to its widespread use in the community, allowing even non-GIS individuals to easily use and apply the tools, especially when it’s needed most, even when the network is down.
In addition to GGS’s applications, the non-profit organization GGI’s has successfully introduced GIS courses into Louisiana schools utilizing GeoPDF. This has also had a huge impact on the lives of students, giving them training and skills previously unavailable to them. GGI’s is now introducing students to GeoPDF technology during GGI’s latest course offering, Drones to Smart Maps. Thanks to Fran and her team’s work, these students’ eyes are now opened to the world of GIS, with opportunities and prospects for their futures that they would not otherwise have.