Thornton, Colo., USA, 28 June 2006 – The National Spill Control School in Corpus Christi, Texas, is using GPS-Photo Link software from GeoSpatial Experts of Thornton, Colo., to teach emergency personnel how to respond to spills of oil, chemicals and other hazardous materials. The school recommends using GPS photo mapping techniques in a GIS environment as part of response preparedness.
“The National Spill Control School utilizes GIS to create spill simulations for the U.S. Navy, oil companies and pipeline utilities,” said Devon Humphrey, a GIS Instructor with the School. “We have found that using GPS-based cameras and software to photo-map both man-made and natural features including creeks, ditches, wetlands and resources-at-risk on a large facility provides valuable visual intelligence in the event of a real disaster.”
GPS-Photo Link is a digital image mapping software that saves time and money by automatically linking digital photographic images to GPS location data in the GIS environment. GPS-Photo Link creates web pages in which the watermarked photographs are integrated with satellite imagery, street maps, or other GIS-based mapping layer. New functionality added in the most recent software version enables users to display their photo locations as icons in a Google Earth map layer and add an arrow indicating the direction in which the photo was taken.
Affiliated with Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, The National Spill Control School opened in 1977 to focus on oil spill response tactics but has since expanded to include courses on emergency procedures related to hazardous material spills and other natural disasters. In preparation for GIS-simulated training exercises, school instructors photograph features and areas across the host facility taking part in the drill. GPS-Photo Link software is used to integrate these photos into the GIS map so that participants can click on a geocoded icon to view a feature that may be affected by a spreading oil spill or chemical plume.
“On very large military bases, refineries and ports, managers seldom know every square inch or all critical features that may be damaged due to spills, severe weather or other types of disasters. We have had participants who didn’t even know that there was a running creek containing fish and other wildlife on their base until they clicked on the GIS map to see the photo,” said Humphrey. “We use the GPS-Photo Link system to show how simple it is to take a photo inventory of the facility and integrate those photos into their GIS in advance. This provides a baseline of location and time-stamped visual intelligence for use during a disaster. The same technique is used for rapid and detail-rich damage assessment purposes during and after an actual incident.”
Rick Bobbitt, president of GeoSpatial Experts, concurs with Humphrey’s assessment of the value of GPS photo mapping for emergency preparedness, saying, “There is nothing complicated about the GPS photo mapping process; if you can point and shoot a digital camera and use a GPS receiver, you can create a time- and location-stamped photographic inventory of your facility in a single day.”