GIS Efforts

John Rickers at Ground Zero in New YorkEighteen years have passed since a perfect blue sky morning turned into the blackest of nights. September 11, 2001 is a day that many will never forget. After the terrorist attacks on our World Trade Center and the Pentagon, many Americans’ lives were changed forever. Three Chippewa National Forest employees were there to help.

On September 13, 2001 three members of the Chippewa National Forest Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Team: John Rickers, Forest Resource Information Manager; Darryl Holman, GIS Specialist and Danny Dennis, Engineering Draft, were called to New York to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Incident Situation Team. The team worked with MN DNR and FEMA GIS personnel. They worked 16-hour days, providing mapping and other geospatial data products in support of the search and rescue efforts at the World Trade Center. The GIS team was stationed at the Jacob Javitz Convention Center, New York, and were on-site for 14-days, returning to the Chippewa on October 1, 2001.

The GIS team was involved in a variety of mapping and geospatial analysis efforts in support of the search and recovery teams. During the first week on site, the GIS team established a set of standard products including maps of: facility locations (command centers, sector posts, medical and supply tents, etc); transportation network; aerial photography (acquired every other day); building floor plans (above and below ground) showing updated search and structural status; and locations of hazards. A 75’x 75’ cell reference grid used for positioning on top of the debris piles. Facility location mapping, hazard mapping, and search and structural status mapping were updated twice daily as search and rescue teams debriefed after their operational periods. Other data sets were used such as thermal data scans to detect hot spots. The daily scans were used to track their rate of cooling. LIDAR data was used to map the elevations of the debris piles.

“It is a moment in my life and career I will never forget”, said John Rickers. “September 11 was one of our worst days but it brought out the best in everyone that responded and we wanted to help in any way we could.”

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