Maps are a key component of the Block Action Team “tool box”. In addition to keeping information in tabular form, maps allow users and visitors to see graphically what is going on. The old mantra of “a picture is worth a thousand words” is true: knowing that 1,000 (as an example) households are actively participating in Block Action Teams (BATs), a graphical map lets you see this visually. A map not only shows that there may be 1,000 households in BATs, it can also give you an idea of where the BATs are located, how many BATs are involved, the relative size of each BAT, and their distribution throughout the city.
Usage of Maps
Maps are used for a variety of purposes. Currently maps are used for the following purposes:
- BAT Leaders receive printed maps of their BAT showing the individual households in the BAT. BAT Leaders augment these maps with information useful for them. Typically BAT Leaders will mark up their maps to show where utility shut-offs are for gas, electric and water.
- Maps are used to show zone outlines so that interested residents can determine what zone they live in and if a BAT is active in their neighborhood.
- Maps also give the city officials a view as to overall coverage of BATs throughout the city
Maps in The Future
One goal of the program is to provide a near real-time map of damage throughout the city. Such a map would be made available to city officials who are orchestrating the response to a disaster. These maps would be color-coded to show levels of damage to households and people, with red showing the most damage and green showing no damage at all. These maps are sometimes called “Visine maps”, a take-off from the eye drops of the same name. The reason this name is used is because the purpose of such a map is to “get the red out.”
Technology Behind the Maps
All of our maps are generated using either Google Maps or Google Maps Engine. The basic Google Maps provide a wealth of information (road names, addresses, etc.). Google Maps Engine provides interfaces that allow us to customize maps for specific purposes. For example, the zone and BAT outlines are only available in Google Maps Engine. Another feature is layering, or the ability to turn on and off “layers” or groups of information. This features allows the user to “de-clutter” a map so that only relevant information is displayed for the intended purpose. We are continuing to explore ways to exploit the interfaces of Google Maps Engine to see how we can build better and more interactive maps than what we have available today.