Geospatial technology helping federal agencies map critical infrastructure

May 1 '07: Federal officials from the U.S. Department of Personnel Management are working with Geospatial Experts to map critical infrastructure through the Critical Infrastructure Protection Seminar.

The CIPS was designed by the OPM to help train federal employees to "understand the response role of their agencies and organizations in a terrorist event," the seminar's website read. Other skills include current threats to existing critical infrastructure from terrorists and extremists; case study understanding of past attacks; future threats; and how government agencies coordinate a response to a terrorist attack.

The geospatial/federal partnership is comprised of mapping technology companies including ESRI which work to train federal employees. Tom Patterson of ESRI said, "We use GPS-Photo Link software to show the participants that inspecting and mapping infrastructure is as easy as taking a digital photograph of their kids. ... We give these non-GIS people a digital camera equipped with a GPS and a secure digital card."

The federal employees go "out into the field and take pictures of the potential deficiencies they find at a training facility. The GPS card automatically acquires locations coordinates for every photo," allowing for mapping of an area complete with visuals, Patterson said.

The digital photos help to provide "documentation of potential vulnerabilities that can be reviewed later by experts, who can decide what measures, if any, should be taken" to increase the security around the particular infrastructure.