Put people in a crisis situation, and one of two things usually happens: Either they fall apart and become helpless, or they find skills they didn’t know they had and figure out innovative ways to work collaboratively with others to overcome the hardship.

When the magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck Chile off the coast of the Maule Region on Feb. 27, 2010, more than 500 lives were lost, and the country’s infrastructure was severely damaged. Much of Chile’s survey network was also destroyed. Dr. Mike Bevis, a professor of geodynamics at The Ohio State University, called the quake “a geodetic and surveying catastrophe.” The tasks that awaited Bevis and others on the international teams of experts who responded to the disaster must have seemed overwhelming--in fact, in this issue’s cover story, Bevis describes it as “being in a giant vortex and everything is spinning around.” Yet he and others rose to the challenge, working swiftly to rebuild Chile’s spatial reference system. It was a team effort that generated impressive results: Chile now has a substantially improved reference frame with the potential to create an active network of reference stations in the region that was hit hardest by the earthquake.

I’m always impressed by what people are able to accomplish when they work together in the face of a disaster. But even ordinary situations can be opportunities to create a positive outcome through collaboration. Take the five surveyors from different firms and varied backgrounds who traveled to west central Africa--despite challenges such as high temperatures making their equipment malfunction and the project scope creeping to become much larger than anticipated, they laid the framework in a matter of weeks for the region’s children to have a better future through higher education.

And as Matthew W. Loessin, RPLS, president of Frank Surveying Co. Inc. points out in “Success Within Bounds”, establishing partnerships and strategic alliances with other professionals and firms can strengthen a company’s service offerings and enable the team to achieve much more than a single firm could accomplish alone.

Whether your firm is looking to become more involved in GIS, get a foot in the door on laser scanning or get involved in a project for the greater good of others, reaching out to other professionals and firms can be a good way to generate new ideas and create a reliable go-to network when you hit an unexpected challenge.

Does your firm have a collaboration success story that you’d like to share? Contact me at pobeditor@bnpmedia.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

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To contact the editor, send an e-mail to pobeditor@bnpmedia.com.