Standardizing Map Symbols
An Initiative to Improve Communication

Scott McAfee
GIS Coordinator, Mitigation Division
Representative to FGDC Homeland Security Working Group
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Department of Homeland Security

December 3, 2003

Transcript (HTML)
Transcript (MS Word)
Slides: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
About the Initiative

Related Websites:
FGDC Homeland Security Working Group (HSWG)
HSWG Emergency Symbol Evaluation
OGC Press Release, 11/20/03

OGC Emergency Mapping Symbology Initiative

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Scott McAfee works in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and is a GIS coordinator for the Mitigation Division of FEMA in Washington, D.C. Mr. McAfee helps to develop policy and coordinate the geospatial information aspects of a number of FEMA activities and programs, including; Emergency Management Map Symbology; HAZUS; and Multihazard Flood Map Modernization. Before FEMA he worked for the California Office of Emergency Services, where he utilized GIS for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. Mr. McAfee sits on the Federal Geographic Data Committee's Coordination and Homeland Security Groups.

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FEMA, now part of the Department of Homeland Security, began an initiative in 2001 to develop standard map symbols for use in emergency management mapping. The standard is intended primarily to help first responders and emergency managers at the incident and local levels. The resulting symbol set, when completed and endorsed as a standard, will support disaster response and homeland security efforts by eliminating the confusion that can arise from unintuitive, ambiguous, and/or inconsistent use of map symbols.

Since mid-2002 the initiative has been developed collaboratively within the Federal Geographic Data Committee's Homeland Security Working Group (FGDC HSWG). A Symbology Subgroup has been very active in defining the symbol set and developing related products. The Department of Census has coordinated digital symbol production. Other members of the group include representatives from the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Department of Energy, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, the National States Geographic Information Council, the National Weather Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

HSWG Symbology Subgroup activities include:

  • Defining and refining a list of map features relevant to emergency and homeland security incident managers;
  • Developing a symbol set for these features;
  • Soliciting feedback from the user community (emergency managers and others);
  • Evaluating the best collaborative path for accreditation as a standard;
  • Developing interoperability specifications and a prototype for graphical display through the Open GIS Consortium;
  • Designing the standard so as to ensure scalability and cross-disciplinary/cross-cultural flexibility.

For more information, please contact:
Scott McAfee (202) 646-3317

Jeff Booth (703) 317-3056