February 2015
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Time to Use the US National Grid (USNG)


I just attended a training about the U.S. National Grid (USNG) provided by the Southern California NAPSG – “Using USNG in Support of Public Safety GIS and All Hazards Emergency Management.”  This was a good introduction and had some very good hands on training about using the USNG.  Thanks to Tom Gikas of LA City Fire for hosting this event.

In LA County we’ve been talking about finding a replacement for the Thomas Bros. page grid.  You know, those map books everyone had before they had a GPS unit in their car or on their smartphone.  But some firefighters, EMTs, LAPD Air Support Division, etc. still use Thomas Guides either as their map of choice or as a backup – they still like the grid for locating items (even if it doesn’t cover the entire County either).  It might take us a while to get there, but there are many reasons to use the USNG including:

  • Too many coordinate systems now (many ways to describe a location); but need a standard,
  • A third of all emergency calls DO NOT occur at a street address (based on NFIRS 2000-06 data); need a good way to find these locations,
  • It is the only coordinate system recognized as a standard by the FGDC,

*Source:  Emergency Resource Deployment Planning (SOC)

A really good resource, if you want to learn more about the USNG is go to the U.S. National Grid Information Center.  There is a lot of information here.  To get familiar with this you can start with an online viewer (***GISsurfer is the replacement – click here*** or click here for ArcGIS Online version).

We’re going to put the grid into our online GIS web mapping applications soon; so more people can see it.  It’s time we started looking into this and using it.

-Nick Franchino  (11S LT 8513 6901)
LA County Dept. of Regional Planning, GIS Manager

US National Grid

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