Twin Cities GECCo
By Randy Knippel, Dakota County
This past October, over 75 people from a variety of public, private, and non-profit organizations attended a two-day workshop to discover new ways they can work together to apply geospatial data and technology to help protect citizens and infrastructure in crisis situations.
GECCo stands for Geospatially Enabling Community Collaboration, and represents an event jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
and the Geospatial Information and Technology Association (GITA)
. The focus of the event is centered on emergency preparedness and identifying barriers that would limit the effective use of GIS in disasters. This was the eighth in a series of GECCo events conducted over the last 5 years, but GITA facilitators made it clear that they felt this one was unique due to the high level of collaboration already occurring in Minnesota.
The first day of the workshop provided background information from a variety of perspectives to achieve a common understanding of existing capabilities and issues. It included information gathered from past GECCo’s, as well as presentations by the DHS, the Civil Air Patrol, and six representatives from city, county, regional, and state agencies in Minnesota.
The second day focused on a tabletop exercise. Four smaller groups were formed and asked to discuss their reactions to a hypothetical, but highly plausible, scenario involving multiple tornados. Although emergency managers and responders likely conduct similar exercises, this is the first time such an exercise has been conducted in Minnesota with a GIS focus.
The event also brought Dr. Carl Reed, CTO of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC)
, to the Twin Cities for a presentation on Thursday evening and again on Friday over lunch. The OGC currently has 440 members with a mission “To serve as a global forum for the collaboration of developers and users of spatial data products and services, and to advance the development of international standards for geospatial interoperability.”
The TCGECCo website
includes more background information and all the materials used in the workshop, and will include the final report and next-step actions when they are completed. One clear takeaway from the event was strong support for formalizing relationships within the GIS professional community to create standardized data, maps and procedures (with an emphasis on the U.S. National Grid) to allow better collaboration for supporting disasters.