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Delta State’s Center for Interdisciplinary Geospatial Information Technologies assisting Hurricane Sandy relief efforts

By November 6, 2012General


Photo: Talbot Brooks

With a host of rescue missions being sent to New York and New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy, the Delta State Center for Interdisciplinary Geospatial Information Technologies (GIT) is producing maps to assist relief effortsWith a host of rescue missions being sent to New York and New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy, the Delta State Center for Interdisciplinary Geospatial Information Technologies (GIT) is producing maps to assist relief efforts.  The center works with national partners to develop standards for addressing and communicating location with 911, search and rescue and disaster relief. It has worked on numerous national projects including providing mapping for Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremonies and the for earthquake relief efforts in Port Au Prince, Haiti  in 2010. 

The center has a long-standing relationship with Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) through work it has done with the National Fire Academy and through shared experiences with 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.  It is the latter that helped staff members at the center form a close bond with FDNY Captain Steven Pollackov and Lieutenant Mike Brady.  Pollackov rose through the ranks of FDNY to become the EMS commander for the Bronx by the time 9/11 happened.  His experiences “on the street” and in leadership roles spurned an interest in using geospatial technologies in the fire service.  As he explored the possibilities, other became interested and he eventually started FDNY’s GIT Unit.  Center Director Talbot Brooks recruited Pollackov into Delta State’s MAS-GIT program earlier this year.

Lt. Brady was serving as a line officer on Ladder 109 and, like Pollackov, he was bitten by the GIT bug and now works as the second in command.  Over the years, the FDNY GIT unit has grown to a total of 6 full time professionals who play key roles in everything from the development of FDNY’s new NextGen 911 system to maritime charting for FDNY’s fleet of fire boats.

Pollackov and Brooks were working together at the National Fire Academy to develop a two-day GIT course for firefighters and talked about the development of Hurricane Sandy. 

“He called me on Tuesday [Oct. 30] and asked for some advice and help in producing map products,” said Brooks.  “The south end of Brooklyn and parts of Queens and Lower Manhattan were hit hard by the storm.  At the time of the call, a six- alarm fire was raging just south of JFK Airport, another five-alarm fire was burning in Queens, and severe damage had occurred along shoreline areas.  Coney Island, Fire Island, Staten Island, and many other areas had received Katrina-like damage due to storm surge.  As with Katrina, fire crews are slowly working through the debris and remaining structures to locate survivors.”
Pollackov and his crew are part of New York City’s Incident Management Team and are using GIT to help coordinate the search.  Delta State’s GIT Center is helping to produce some of those maps in a supporting role.  “In all, we will produce more than 225 maps for FDNY,” said Brooks.  “Beyond FDNY, we have extended offers of assistance to FEMA and colleagues we worked with in Massachusetts and Vermont during Tropical Storm Irene.”

According to Brooks, Delta State GIT students gain real-world experience assisting in these efforts.  “When the Center engages in crisis or disaster response activities, our student employees are often part of the solution.  The center is unique to the university in that “we fulfill not only full time teaching responsibilities, engage in many large-scale “real world” projects as a source of income to pay salaries and computing costs, as a means to provide students with practical experience that helps them land the best jobs when they graduate, and to act as advisors and subject matter experts about GIT and Remote Sensing,” said Brooks. “We have a global reputation for this expertise and have participated in projects or provided advice not only to agencies here like the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, and DHS, but abroad through professional associations such as the Geospatial Information and Technology Association and the United Nations.”

For more information about the Delta State Center for Interdisciplinary Geospatial Information Technologies, call (662) 846-4520.