GIS Day: An Event to Remember; Crossing Boundaries; ALTA/ACSM Minimum Standards Revised; and Date for New FEMA Elevation Certificate Changed

GIS Day 1999: An Event to Remember

Nov. 19, 1999, was a milestone for the geomatics industry: the first annual GIS Day. Headed up by the National Geographic Society, GIS Day 1999 was introduced to inform schools, businesses and the general public about the real-world applications of GIS technology. GIS users were encouraged to hold special events to share their work and applications. The initial goal was to educate over 1 million children and adults on the applications of geography and the science of GIS technology. Organizations promoted their events through newsletters, websites, conferences, presentations and the use of a special GIS Day logo. A GIS Day committee, comprised of the National Geographic Society, the Association of American Geographers and ESRI (Redlands, Calif.), along with 12 associate sponsors, provided a CD of materials, such as posters, signs, PowerPoint presentations, banners, interactive activities and a screen saver, for event holders.

From Alabama to Wyoming and from Africa to Turkey, more than 1,900 organizations representing 25 industries in more than 90 countries registered to hold a GIS Day event, and pledges were received to educate over 1.2 million children and over 1.2 million adults. Seventeen governors and dozens of mayors declared Nov. 19, 1999, as GIS Day.

Many groups concentrated on educating children. The National Geographic Society held an inaugural event at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., where children learned how GIS technology helps to visualize geographic situations and problems by mapping and analyzing large amounts of geographic data. ESRI President Jack Dangermond was the event's host. ESRI's John Calkins said the day was a great success and that the 150 children present especially liked tracking grizzly bears at Yellowstone National Park using GIS and learning how their environments are affected by the technology. The kids also enjoyed mapping the location of a new skateboard park using logistical planning techniques.

"They really liked looking at the digital orthos of their own neighborhood and being able to see their own houses. They said, 'Wow! You can do that?'" Calkins said.

Intergraph Corp., Huntsville, Ala., presented "Mapping Your World," an informative webcast for teachers and students in grades K-12. More than 275 visitors from Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Spain and the United States learned a new way of exploring their world geographically by using GIS via the Internet. Using real-life examples, such as the evacuation efforts during Hurricane Floyd, the webcast provided insight into how GIS is used in everyday life.

Here are some other success stories:

  • A boy from a group of 60 fourth and fifth grade students from Wildwood Elementary School in Yucaipa, Calif., enjoyed the presentation given by ESRI's Steve Grise and invented his own interpretation of the GIS acronym: Geography Is Super!
  • Elementary students in Connecticut made maps of their neighborhoods, including pizza places, schools, parks and theaters. One boy asked where he could get the GIS software the Regional Water Authority representatives used in their presentations.
  • Children at Phoenix Magnet Elementary School in Alexandria, La., worked with the city's Attorney General and Secretary of State on the applications of GIS.
  • The City of Marquette, Mich., broadcast GIS lessons over the city's public access channel.
  • A museum curator at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco performed continuous demonstrations of general GIS aspects and its applications to understand nature and conservation.
  • The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) hosted GIS demonstrations for schoolchildren and opened the WWF GIS lab, showing how the technology contributes to conservation efforts.
  • Scott Leachman, director of the Lincoln Parish GIS Commission office in Ruston, La., used an interesting approach to inform a group of 300 students the importance of GIS. Leachman asked the group to name careers. He then explained how geography and GIS were affected by and used in that career. "I think it might have made an impression," Leachman said.
  • In Vicksburg, Miss., Mississippi Education Television filmed a presentation given by Nancy Towne of the CADD/GIS Technology Center at an area elementaryÊschool. The audience of fourth graders received CDs of "GIS for Schools" along with stickers, a mouse pad and a GIS book.
  • More than 150 Helena, Mont., residents attended the area map galleries, activity booths and hands-on displays despite the annual holiday art festival and the state championship football game held the same day. Many organizations have already begun plans for this year's GIS Day, Nov. 15, 2000.

    Crossing Boundaries

    Surveyors in the United States who want interstate registration to become easier and more affordable can look north to Canada for guidance. Canada is nearing the approval stage for a countrywide model called the Labour Mobility Agreement that would allow interprovincial work. The agreement could provide greater access to qualified professionals and potentially provide more work for surveyors.

    In the past, multiple provinces handed over interprovincial projects once they reached mutual borders. Lately, many surveyors have formed alliances with various provinces that allow one surveying firm to complete entire interprovincial projects. The Labour Mobility Agreement would provide a general legal platform for multiple provinces involved in projects that transcend interprovincial boundaries.

    At the request of Canadian premiers, who are equivalent to U.S. governors, the Alberta Land Surveyors' Association (ALSA) is completing a required review of all aspects of provincial registration that restricts out-of-province workers from employment at their currently qualified levels of responsibility. The review specifically centers on residency, terms of articles, additional examinations, and excessive application and registration fees.

    ALSA Registrar Jerry Rasmuson said he doesn't believe the current registration practices severely restrict the opportunities for other provincial qualified professionals.

    The Western Canadian Board of Examiners for Land Surveying sets the criteria for all the western provinces and will evaluate the current entry-level qualifications to establish reasonable restrictions, focusing on the mandate of protecting the public. Rasmuson said there was talk within the board to eliminate different articles, getting it down to a statute exam with an hour oral exam and doing away with the paper part.

    Though the review is still in its preliminary stage, the governmental bodies of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have been communicating well on the issue. Rasmuson said he expects an agreement to be met by the proposed date of July 1, 2001.

    ALTA/ACSM Minimum Standards Revised

    The NSPS Board of Governors approved the proposed 1999 amendments to the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys at their October 1999 meeting. The revisions eliminated the four classes of surveys (urban, suburban, rural or mountain and marshland). Revision of paragraph 5(d) states that the names and addresses of owners of adjoining platted lands need not be shown and that interior overlaps and gores for multiparcel surveys must be identified. Table A, item 7(c) now states that building heights shall be measured above grade at a defined location. Positional uncertainty analyses are now required under the amended Accuracy Standards.

    To review the explanations for each revision, visit ALTA's website at A set of printed brochures is also available from the NSPS. The first set is complimentary; additional sets are $3.00 each.

    To obtain a set, contact: NSPS, c/o ACSM, 5410 Grosvenor Lane, Suite 100, Bethesda, MD 20814-2144. Phone: 301/493-0200; Fax: 301/493-8245; E-mail:

    Date for New FEMA Elevation Certificate Changed

    Following the August 1999 release of the new FEMA Elevation Certificate (as reported in POB, January 1999), several members of the Flood Insurance Producers National Committee requested that the "phase-in" period be extended past Jan. 1, 2000, to allow for training and adaptation. The Federal Insurance Administration (FIA) has postponed the mandatory date for the use of the new EC to Oct. 1, 2000. National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Direct Servicing Agent companies may accept an EC on the old form or surveyors' or engineers' letterhead, provided the previously required information is present, and the certification date is before Oct. 1, 2000. FEMA discontinued the distribution of the old EC on July 31, 1999. Those interested in attending a training workshop may visit FEMA's website for further information at