Monthly Archives: February 2020

A Note from the Chairman: Building Capacity Through Engagement

February 4, 2020


My name is Chris Diller, and I recently became Chairman of the NAPSG Foundation Board of Directors.  I took over this role from Rand Napoli who served for the past six years in the same role.  I want to take a moment to thank Rand for his past and future service to NAPSG and for his leadership in helping grow this organization.  In our 15th anniversary, it is very safe to say that we would not be the organization we are today without your leadership.  So “Thank you”.

I’ve been thinking about our efforts at NAPSG and all the things we do to fulfill our mission promise as an organization. For those not familiar with us, our mission is as follows:

“To equip emergency management and public safety with the knowledge, skills, and resources to apply decision-support technology and data in enhancing preparedness and building a more resilient nation.”

Let me share a personal story as to why I am involved with NAPSG and why you should consider getting involved too.

In August 2007, Wisconsin activated the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in response to major flooding.  I was hired by the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) a few years earlier, in part, to help the state figure out how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) could be integrated into the state’s emergency management operations.  But when the SEOC was activated, GIS was not on the list of resources needed.  I supported the Wisconsin National Guard deployment to Hurricane Katrina and helped make a few maps in support of a major tornado event in Wisconsin.  However, I spent most of the time learning how the national guard and civilian government responded during those two events.

I knew maps would be needed, so I decided to do something that forever changed how the state uses GIS in support of emergency management activities.  I grabbed a cart, loaded my computer, a monitor, a printer, and rolled down the hallway into the SEOC.  I set up shop in the back and started making maps.  I just listened and made maps of areas in distress.  Flooded towns and locations of dams came to mind.  I added the US National Grid as an overlay to help anyone who might need it for reference and land navigation.  What happened next exceeded my expectations.

Someone stopped by, looked at one of the maps I created, and asked for a copy.  I hit the print button, and they were off and running.  A few others stopped by and made similar requests. Pretty soon I started getting requests for multiple copies and, eventually, I was making custom maps.  After a week, one of the SEOC managers told me that those maps were second only to communications in terms of importance, and the rest was history.  GIS is now an essential part of the Wisconsin emergency management activities.

There are two reasons I share this story.  The first is that because of NAPSG you won’t have to figure it out on your own as I did.  The second reason is my challenge to you.

I wish NAPSG resources had been available to me then like they are available to you today.  NAPSG has a deep collection of relevant resources to help make you successful, ranging from the latest in best practices and practical guidelines & templates to education and training forums such as our PrepTech Talks and Disaster Innovation Talks.  All of these resources and more are accessible at no cost to you on the NAPSG website.  Some of the most recent initiatives NAPSG has undertaken resulted in guidelines for information-sharing to support mutual aid, a standardized toolkit for First Responder Field Data for Situational Awareness, and a library of symbols – just to name a few of our resources.  The NAPSG Standardized Symbol Library and Tool was an enormous (and ongoing) undertaking and was developed through a community-driven process.  NAPSG invests time listening to and supporting community needs through ongoing dialog and action.

NAPSG supports local and regional training events, conducts regular online PrepTech Talks, and hosts an annual summit known as the Innovation Summit for Preparedness & Resilience (InSPIRE).  NAPSG is an amazing organization that provides resources to you at no cost!

We can do all these great things at NAPSG because:

  1. we have a world-class staff doing lots of hard work every day to help GIS and public safety professionals advance their understanding of innovative technology and policy in support of emergency management;
  2. we have a strong group of financial supporters who believe in what we do (without those supporters we can’t do all these great things);
  3. because the Board of Directors is comprised of experienced technologists and public safety professionals who believe in the NAPSG mission; and
  4. most important, because our broader NAPSG community of professionals and volunteers are willing to donate their time to improve the content, improve the process, and engage in discussion.

Without your involvement, NAPSG doesn’t exist.  This leads to my second point.

I challenge each of you to get more involved and find a way to help your agency blend together: technology, GIS, and the public safety mission.  The beauty of NAPSG is that you don’t have to do it alone.  NAPSG’s greatest resource is connecting people.  We need to understand your needs/challenges.  And the community needs to learn from your successes (and your missteps!).

NAPSG’s future is bright.  We continue to explore more areas where geospatial and other innovative technology can integrate with emergency management and public safety.  In the last couple of years, the next generation 9-1-1 has become a hot topic, along with artificial intelligence, community lifelines, dashboards, and cybersecurity.  Since all these innovations are technology-enabled, concerns of cybercriminals stealing data and corrupting daily operations can threaten our ability to protect property and save lives.  Have another topical area we are not covering?  Contact us and let us know.

Think about the progress we have collectively made in the last 15 years.  Now think about the next ten years.  Get engaged and help build the nations’ public safety and emergency management to implement and use advanced technology.


Warm regards,

Chris Diller
Chairman, NAPSG Foundation