[OSGeo-Discuss] Munich Orientation Convention, Mapcodes, and All the Rest

Steve Swazee sdswazee at sharedgeo.org
Wed Jul 29 07:26:23 PDT 2015

Dr. Reed, et al.,

“Somehow I do not see a dispatcher saying to a responding officer, "Shots
fired at 103132" :-)”  Carl, you are wrong.  


On June 30, 2013, 19 wildland firefighters lost their lives when a wall of
fast moving flame over took their position at the Yarnell Hill fire in
Arizona.  Reports from that incident attempt to gloss over a body of
evidence pointing to geospatial ineptness at all levels with terms like “fog
of war” and “communication clutter”.  It is the only way those at the top of
the food chain can defend themselves from the reality that as those
firefighters climbed into their last defense fire shelters known as “shake
and bake bags”, those 19 souls were unable to quickly and effectively
communicate their location and request help.  A truly unfortunate
circumstance given there was a large airborne tanker full of retardant
circling directly overhead their position.  This incident has sparked an
ongoing debate in the wildland fire community - that like the armed forces
before it – the nation’s wildland fire community needs to get onboard with
use of the USNG/MGRS.  Try this:  Mayday, Mayday, Mayday – 8975 4563.  For
those who know how the grid works, those 8 digits (two less than a phone
number, and who can’t remember that?) just passed location for a retardant
drop with a location accuracy of 33’. 


On May 22, 2013, grade school students from a Minneapolis suburb were on a
fossil hunting field trip at the Lilydale Regional Park which sits along the
Mississippi River flats in St. Paul, MN.  A landslide there buried two
children and a desperate call for help was made to the 911 center.  Street
address for a large rambling park that stretches for miles – one.  Ability
of a panicked teacher unfamiliar with the area to describe location in the
park so someone could understand – zero.  Smartphone triangulation – crap.
But it doesn’t stop there.  Despite the park being in the middle of dense
urban area, it took responders more than 50 minutes to locate the incident
site, and even after the first wave of responders found the location, those
responders were unable to provide information about their location for
additional assistance.   Outcome?  Two dead children.  Beyond that loss of
life, the incident has cost the City of St. Paul something north of $1.5
million.  The result has been a heap of soul searching about how to
communicate location when a street address won’t work.  Carl, from being
here for the TC GECCo, you already know what the answer is.  In the City of
St. Paul, Minnesota, responders are now expected to know what “Shots fired
at 103132” means.  Too bad it took the death of these two children in 2013
to force adoption of a plan laid out in 2011.


If you want more examples, I have them – responders in Florida are now using
6 digit grid coordinates (100 meter accuracy) to communicate the coordinates
of helicopter landing zones – and so on.


The naïve and uniformed comments I have been reading on this board in an
effort to promote a new best thing for communicating location, are troubling
in the extreme.  I believe part of the charter of OSGeo is service to the
common good.  Yet, the reality of these plans and promotions fly in the face
of the Harry S. Truman quote: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you
do not care who gets the credit.”  In an effort to be “the hero” who solves
the street address problem – the hawking of these half-baked plans here and
elsewhere (see the recent New Yorker magazine Map Codes article:
al_facebook) is creating geospatial confusion at the cost of lives.


A little research on the topic of USNG/MGRS and how it works would be of
benefit to those who wish to slam a worldwide referencing system created
after WWII when a NATO armed forces business review determined the Allies
got too many people killed trying to use latitude/longitude when street
addresses don’t work.  The answer isn’t hypothetical, it’s written in blood.


I return to my original point in response to the Munich Orientation
Convention posting. “If OSGeo wanted to do something to truly help the world
gain better situational awareness, it would stop for a moment and reflect on
the realities of these "new" best ideas for relating location - the same way
it has inserted itself into the open LiDAR discussion - and begin working to
understand and promote the Military Gird Reference System (MGRS). “  It DOES
MATTER what you build into your Open Source Software for location
referencing – in a big way.




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