Lela Garlington, The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN), Bartlett Edition
When the cherry red Jetta with the thin 11-foot pole and eight panoramic cameras turned the corner at U.S. 64 and Rockcreek Parkway in Cordova, the man outside the AmVet donation site got up from his seat and squinted.
For the past several days, pedestrians, a shopping mall security guard and other drivers have been giving the bearded, beret-wearing Keith Causin perplexed looks as he cruises neighborhoods and shopping centers in Bartlett and Cordova.
“I’m used to it,” said Causin of Queens, New York. He and Willow Springs, Mo., rancher Charlie Rymer are in town this week as field data collection drivers for Nokia gathering digital images of all the streets, alleyways and back roads of Shelby County.
Nokia’s subcontracting work is a part of a $4.4 million contract that the Shelby County 911 board is developing so that every emergency radio dispatcher in the county will be working off the same map.
The map will pinpoint every address, fire hydrant, driveway, manhole cover and other roadway features. GIS Data Resources, Inc. won the 10-month contract.
The idea is when a police, fire or medical emergency happens, dispatchers will be sending them to the right locations.
After seeing the mapping cameras, AmVet collection clerk Joseph Socha said, “I thought, what’s going on over there?”
Once he learned about the 911 mapping, Socha added, “That’ll make it a whole lot easier on everybody. I remember the guy in the pool hall who died when the ambulance went to the wrong location.”
Jim Wagner died in 2003 when the Memphis Fire Department sent ambulances to the wrong address. It took 26 minutes to arrive at The Billiard Club in Memphis, a block south of Bartlett’s city limits.
Officials with the 911 county district office are hoping such tragedies can be avoided. Currently each of the nine dispatch centers operates its own computerized maps, but not all the centers have maps that extend beyond a city’s boundaries.
The two Nokia drivers are working on a 14-square-mile pilot area to ensure there are no kinks or miscalculations with the imagery. Each address will be verified by latitude and longitude. Once the initial pilot area is completed, they will move to the Downtown and Midtown area in Memphis.
“There are a lot of addressing anomalies in that area. It will give us the best barometer for the entire project,” said Tim Zimmer, GIS administrator for the Shelby County Emergency Communications District.
If there is any kind of precipitation or fog or the temperature drops below 32 degrees or above 104 degrees, the work will be delayed.
The drivers will have a lot of ground to cover. In the 784 square miles of Shelby County, there are about 482,000 structures with addresses, 348,075 parcels with no structures and 5,695 miles of public streets and interstates.
The police will escort the drivers into gated communities or rough neighborhoods if necessary. About the only thing they won’t be allowed access in is the Naval Support Activity base in Millington or gated business complexes such as FedEx headquarters or the FedEx Technology Center in Collierville.
The 3-D images are captured with four cameras on top of the pole and another four cameras on bottom. Sometimes, the drivers will have to make a return trip if something is blocking an address.
Causin works with two computers in the passenger seat. One collects the data while a second one provides him with the most efficient route.
The system allows him to make comments with a push of finger. He can mark an area if there are safety concerns, streets that don’t exist, construction, areas that are restricted or have a low overhang.
Causin enjoys the crazy looks he gets: “I’ve heard, ‘Is that a time machine? A shrinking ray? An alien satellite? Does the car fly?'” Once they realize what is going on, Causin said some will follow him waving, dancing or flipping him off.
The state’s goal is to have a seamless statewide map by 2015.