GeoQ and GEOHuntsville

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Who are we?  

GEOHuntsville is a non-profit initiative based in the city of Huntsville, Alabama with over 400 volunteers in the geospatial community working in close collaboration to advance the geospatial tradecraft, as well as to bring awareness to our geospatial capabilities and attract collaborative investments in geospatial technology. In 2014, the group initiated the Blueprint for Safety pilot project to increase multi-jurisdictional information sharing and situational awareness among agencies and across the response spectrum in order to improve rapid disaster response. Through the developmental phases of the pilot, a concept emerged to help us share lessons and code sets, and use case documentation through a multi-city collaboration called Exemplar City. Exemplar City encourages municipalities faced with similar challenges to collaborate in an open-innovation design environment. Our collective mission is to build safe, secure, and sustainable communities.

How do we use GeoQ? 

We use GeoQ to enable disaster response users to quickly identify impacted areas, provide the ability to task and disperse response resources appropriately, and to record and report the location, well-being and tactical actions of the responders in real-time across the response spectrum.

Who is using it?  

Within our municipality, we have created GeoQ tactical operational workspaces for essentially every agency that responds to disasters. GeoQ is design to be used in disasters, but works equally well during steady-state operations such as special events, maintenance routines, planning, and exercises. Agencies and departments currently using GeoQ include: law enforcement, fire & rescue, medical services, emergency management, utilities, fleet services, public works, administrative agencies, dispatch, Geographic Information System (GIS) services, IT Services, and others outside of our municipality, such as civil air patrol, NGOs and volunteer organizations.

What gap does it fills? 

Our community is fortunate to have the support of a very robust municipal Geographic Information System (GIS) support capability. However, we have identified the need to quickly share multi-jurisdictional response information, as well as obtain a shared situational awareness within our response community. In order to achieve this optimum level of awareness, we must first be able to report the location and well-being of our responders, and appropriately task and monitor their tactical actions within the response. GeoQ provides a great means of managing the locations of response resources (e.g. personnel, equipment and supplies) while monitoring their proximity to hazard in real-time. Our municipal GIS capability leverages GeoQ’s ability to readily take in published data. This provides a data-rich backplane of local information to the responders in the field through the tactical workspaces of each discipline, as well as across the entire response spectrum. One of the primary strengths of GeoQ is its ability to break the work down into manageable pieces (i.e. Areas of Interest AOIs), and assign the work to a cadre of predefined response resources. GeoQ not only monitors the locations of these resources, but also collects and displays the data being collected by responders. Features such as areas impacted, road closures, emergency ingress/egress routes as well as search and rescue operations, triage/transport areas and status. This data is then immediately fed back to the GIS department for further analytics as needed. Analytic output or any additional operational data created by the GIS department can then be passed back to the responder in the field through the GeoQ tactical workspace. GeoQ provides a constant response metric through visual analytics that allow emergency management personnel to monitor the response cadence, ensuring that appropriate resources are applied in the geographic areas where they are needed most. The metric is geographically displayed on the map to allow managers quick access to the pace of the response, allowing them to adjust source application accordingly.

Why we use it?  

GeoQ is part of an open-source project initiated by the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) and Mitre. NGA supports the code through their GitHub site, and as such, encourages other agencies, organizations and industry to participate in the code’s development. GEOHuntsville is a partner in this Open Innovation Community, actively participating in the development and advancement of GeoQ. Our project, Blueprint for Safety, utilizes GeoQ’s open design and combined collaborative efforts to create features that better suit our agencies’ tactical operations, resulting in the creation of features and workflows specifically tailored to meet our local operational needs.

What can we do with it?

Open source and open design allow us the flexibility to co-create with intellects we know and work with well: people working together to overcome the same challenges faced by municipalities and local governments across the country and the world. Open source allows the community to pool resources and marshal skills essential to creating a specific set of features back to the core capability. This reuse and repurpose of code has proved to be very cost efficient. People can participate, contribute and benefit from anywhere at any time, allowing them to take credit for their input, and tap their recommendations on how to improve the process. 

We are part of an Open Innovation Community participating in open design

This open design is co-owned by its community

What we will do next..?

Thanks in part to this open-source initiative, GEOHuntsville is quickly moving forward to promote and extend this co-creative environment by fully operationalizing Blueprint for Safety in our community. Every day, more data is populated, and more workflows go online. Our next goal is to invite other municipalities facing these same challenges to join our collaborative forum of cities in order to share cases, lessons learned, and, yes, even code sets. To paraphrase Chris Anderson from his book Makers: “Open means we can collaborate regardless of geography...the Internet means we don’t have to rely on the person sitting in the next cubicle --we can find the best folks out there and tap into them...and now they can find us.”

--Together we can build safe, secure, and sustainable communities.

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