I wanted to call attention to one of Administrator Fugate's recent posts on Twitter.
For those who might not know, the U.S. National Grid (USNG) is a standard that provides a nationally consistent language of location. It breaks the United States into a series of grids, which can be used to reference an exact location on a map.
For many years, the USNG has been taught and used by the military, known as the Military Grid Reference System (MGRS), and used as the preferred way to reference location and navigate from point A to point B. MGRS is taught and used on every operational level, from teaching entry level privates in basic training to helping senior staffs make strategic decisions.
The geo-locating system currently used by many emergency managers and first responders consists of latitude and longitude coordinates provided by global positioning systems (GPS) or given through a very tedious and time consuming manual method.
While GPS devices are becoming more inexpensive and ubiquitous, the question remains, “What if GPS satellites or devices are rendered useless during an emergency?”
At FEMA, we're encouraging the adoption of the USNG for several reasons:
- It's simple to implement and easy to use.
- It provides interoperability, or a "common language", by making available a grid reference system that is seamless across jurisdictional boundaries.
- It provides scalability. Whether you have access to sophisticated geospatial software or are simply using a paper map, USNG can be used to pinpoint locations and make better operational decisions.
- GPS devices complement USNG. Most GPS receivers can translate GPS coordinates into the USNG grid.
As an example of USNG's use, FEMA's Urban Search and Rescue Response teams use it for positioning during search and rescue operations. It is just one component of a geo-referencing matrix that is used for planning, coordination and information sharing purposes. In fact, FEMA and other emergency support agencies involved in supporting search and rescue (SAR) operations during a disaster, collaborated on the development of the United States National Search and Rescue Committee Catastrophic Incident Search and Rescue (CISAR) Addendum (PDF). This Addendum establishes guidelines and standards for how position information will be communicated.
This is a critical issue for effective SAR coordination and responder safety. During response operations, many search and rescue teams from various local, state, and federal agencies must coordinate their efforts. By employing a standard system and adhering to the CISAR Addendum, which includes use of the USNG, teams are more equipped and prepared to communicate essential information in extreme circumstances.
As Administrator Fugate pointed out on Twitter, check out these two links to learn more.
What are your thoughts on using the USNG standard versus GPS or latitude/longitude? Feel free to leave your questions and feedback - we will try to address comments in future blog posts.