Global Geospatial Solutions (GGS) is a GIS firm with the vision of bringing GIS knowledge and tools to the private sector. Founder Fran Harvey started using GIS on the job while working for the Department of Environmental Quality, which intrigued her to figure out how GIS could be applied to air quality. Today, Fran has a for-profit GIS consulting company that helps companies find solutions using GIS, and a non-profit to introduce GIS technology into education, Global Geospatial Institute (GGI).
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, through FEMA Fran was contracted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) to assist with emergency rescue response. She was tasked with the responsibility to create a search and rescue grid that would be scalable at the Louisiana state level to the ground level so people could walk the streets, or be on a boat in flooded areas, and manage the area when the network was down. Using the technology available 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 books zip code page to help 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 all 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, was easy to use, allowed GIS Analyst to input a large quantity of valuable GIS information in a PDF, and most importantly, could be used by non-GIS users or anyone without access to GIS software and/or a network connection in situations where internet or electricity was down.
The PDF component also made it easier for people to understand and use because of the standard file type, and meant that they didn’t need to learn GIS to be able to use GeoPDF and get all the data and information behind the work they do.
After achieving so much success using 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 that coordinate with the index so that they can 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 a lot of useful data and information. The introduction of TerraGo’s technology into this small town has been the turning point in bringing them into the 21st century, transforming their planning, maintenance and operations procedures tremendously. The user-friendly ability of the GeoPDF technology has led to its wide use in the community, allowing even non-GIS individuals to easily use and apply the tools.
In conjunction with GGS’s private sector application, the non-profit organization, GGI’s, work in introducing GIS courses into schools has also had a huge impact on the lives of the youth, giving them training and work-ready skills for when they graduate from high school. GGI’s current goal for students is to introduce them to the GeoPDF technology during GGI’s third course offering, Drones to Smart Maps. Thanks to Fran and her team’s work, these youth are given job opportunities and prospects for their futures that they wouldn’t otherwise have.