Helping in an Emergency: Bringing Your GIS Skills to the EOC

March 28, 2013

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Incident Command Training Recommended!

How can the wider community of GIS professionals make their skills available to state and local organizations during an emergency? Zach Borst, Regional Outreach Specialist at DEMHS, has been helping VCGI understand that one of the big barriers to any member of the general public helping at any Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is lack of familiarity with the Incident Command Structure (ICS). This affects both attitudes and ability to function in the midst of a potentially chaotic situation. People who have this training are seen as potential assets to the folks running an EOC, whether at the state  or local level.

So, in an effort to follow-up on the interest expressed by many members of the GIS community to “DO MORE” the next time an emergency happens, we are passing along information about some online and upcoming live (Free) ICS training. If you want to be in a position to be as helpful as possible, consider the following (we will pass along future opportunities as they come up!):

ICS 100 – Online Intro Course – Free – everything you need is downloadable from the web site – this may be required before you can attend additional trainings like the one below: http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IS/courseOverview.aspx?code=IS-100.b

ICS 200 –  Incident Command System for Single Resources & Initial Action Incidents

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Potential Changes at VCGI

March 19, 2013

David Brotzman, VCGI

Why Does VCGI Need To Change?

In order to ensure that VCGI can continue to provide a level of service consistent with our legislative mandate, VCGI staff and the Board of Directors have undertaken a Strategic Planning discussion aimed at reducing the organization’s overhead costs and the costs of doing business. At this time, VCGI employees, in aggregate, spend in excess of 40% of our time on grants and projects. Our yearly appropriation covers the costs of the other 60% of our time. These grants and projects are important work, but they do not generally provide more data to the public, more support to state agencies or more coordination within our community. Our state appropriation has stayed the same or gone down over the last 3 years while, just like any other business, our yearly costs continue to rise. Moving inside state government eliminates the costs of incorporation and will lower our organizational overhead costs thereby reducing our need for grants and contracts. The continued viability of the organization is limited without a change in our business model.

What Is The Change VCGI Is Pursuing?

As a result of those Strategic Planning discussions, the VCGI Board of Directors gave approval for me to pursue moving VCGI into state government, specifically, within the Dept. of Information and Innovation (DII). The commonality between the two organizations is clear as we are both technology service organizations. Richard Boes, the Commissioner of DII, and I have been in discussion with the House Government Operations Committee this legislative session to draft language that would effectively move VCGI to become a Division within DII. As of today that language has been put into a Bill for public review. The Bill (linked in the title below) is;

H. 516 Establishing the Vermont Center for Geographic Information as the Division of Geospatial Technologies under the Department of Information and Innovation

The statutory changes being suggested deal only with language related to our non-profit status and the Board of Directors. All other language, as of this writing, will leave our statutory requirements as they are. Further committee discussion may change that and VCGI will report on any substantive changes that seem to have traction.

Will VCGI Still Serve The General Public, RPCs, Etc. If This Change Happens?

Yes. Everyone involved with this effort so far has had the same concern. The Board of Directors, the staff, members of the GIS community, House and Senate Committee members and I, all want to be sure that VCGI is still able to provide the same level of support to our public and outreach goals as we have in the past. I believe we will and possibly more. As long as we retain our yearly appropriation there will be funding that supports our numerous coordination and public outreach statutory requirements. Additionally, I expect that Leslie Pelch will be making the transition with us so you will not lose her public advocacy and coordination within the community. I believe we will have more time to aggregate and distribute data and data services if we have the resources free to pursue those goals. Also, there should be no impact to the statewide Orthophoto Program if VCGI moves into DII.

Contact Us With Questions

Read the Bill, form your own opinions. Contact Leslie (lesliep@vcgi.org) or myself (davidb@vcgi.org) if you have any questions. Contact your legislators if you want to tell them your opinion of the Bill. Polite public comment is always welcome on the VGIS-L listserve, our Facebook Page, and Twitter.

Twitter:  @VCGI

Facebook: www.facebook.com/vermont.center.for.geographic.information