From Data to Story

GIS is all about data. When someone requests a map they are requesting a snapshot or dynamic view of the data. In some circumstances they also want to know where the data is from and when it was last updated. But realistically, they want a map that tells a story. As part of their responsibilities, a geospatial staff member organizes and coordinates the necessary materials together in any way they can and present their story on a map, or through a viewer.

While many of these steps seem obvious they are not as obvious to those who do not have geospatial responsibilities. Those outside of the geospatial realm forget it can take days, weeks, or even months to assemble the proper information into a story if it is not freely available.

During an incident, any time given for a map is unacceptable. So how do GIS staff accomplish the same goals during an event when data is unavailable? While a geospatial staff member cannot gather all of the data that is needed for an incident they can gather as much as they can and ensure each dataset is updated in a timely manner. Otherwise what good is outdated data? This also goes back to my post on Relationships where GIS staff can coordinate multiple datasets as it is needed before, during and after an incident.

During normal operations data can be difficult to receive from other agencies and many times it is duplicated by agencies that cannot coordinate their efforts. However, during an event agencies are more willing to share since everyone has a piece in the puzzle and they do not want to be known as the non-cooperative agency. During this time, it is imperative GIS staff maintain contact with each other so after the event. After the event, data maintenance can then be maintained during normal operations.



One of the best things any person can accomplish in his or her life comes back to one word: relationships.

This past week I attended the ESRI User Conference and Homeland Security Summit in San Diego, California. This was my fifth time in attendance and by far the best experience I have had. Why? For the first time I was able to connect with fellow EM/GIS professionals and GIS professionals from my home state of Minnesota. I was also very fortunate to connect with someone who inspired me to start a blog – this blog.

Which brings me back to relationships. Relationships – professional and personal, even in today’s technology-driven age, are one the most important components in our lives. If it was not for relationships I would not have a state championship, I would not have the job I hold today, nor would I be an assistant hockey coach. All of the things that define me and that I love would not be part of my life if it were not for relationships.

With technology, we can now form electronic relationships via e-mail or social media. It is the understanding between you and those you communicate with. It does not matter how you communicate but that you do so. We do not need to be in same jurisdiction, county, state, or even country to maintain our relationships. If anything technology should allow us to maintain even healthier relationships.