In most emergencies, responders find their destination using a routine street address. What if street signage isn't available or you are in an unfamiliar area with no distinguishing landmarks, how will responders locate you in those situations? Fortunately, there is a nationally recognized coordinate system that became the standard for this purpose in 2001, the United States National Grid (USNG) system.
Johnson County Emergency Management in partnership with the Johnson County Conservation Department, and the Johnson County 911 service board, recently purchased and installed six USNG signs along the Hoover Trail northwest of Solon, Iowa. These new signs will serve as reference points for trail users and responders to effectively communicate their location on the trail reducing delayed responses or misrouting of emergency response personnel. Existing street signs and landmarks can still provide important information for responders, but adding another
identifiable reference point will strengthen communication.
USNG uses an alphanumeric system to plot coordinates and can specify areas of 1-kilometer, 100-meter, or 10-meter accuracy with as little as four, six, or eight digits respectively - per the standard (found at www.fgdc.gov). Johnson County signage will utilize a 10-meter accuracy, which uses eight digits to specify the location, shown on the sign to the right in the white box.
How to get help
If you find yourself in an emergency situation where USNG signage is being used, call 911, if it is a non-emergency situation, but you still need assistance please call the non-emergency number (319) 356-6800 displayed at the bottom of each sign. Inform dispatch of your emergency, and then read the 8 large numbers (shown to the right) 2105, 3114 for this location.
These numbers vary according to your location and are the USNG coordinates for that specific location. Please provide the dispatcher, the small numbers and letters above the white box with the 8 digits. For the sign shown in this press release, it would be 15T, XG. Dispatchers can use these coordinates to direct responders to your location. Having your location settings turned to the on mode on your cellular phone will also provide additional information to dispatchers. Rapid SOS is another interface tool that gathers as does an Alert Iowa profile in Smart 911. These systems all work to help dispatchers identify location information from callers when in remote areas. These new signs are the latest steps being taken to enhance safety for people using the trail system. “It is our desire to see the use of these signs expand throughout the various trail systems here in Johnson County, said Dave Wilson-Emergency Management Director for Johnson County. The Conservation Board has been incredibly supportive of the idea and worked with the County GIS department and the 911 Service Board to roll out these first 6 signs, said Wilson”.
Linn County utilizes the same USNG signage on their trails, as well as other communities across the United States. USNG signage may increase as the Johnson County trail systems develop and expand. Johnson County Property Information Viewer provides an USNG layer – Public Land Survey &USNG, and many apps are available for your mobile phones that provide your USNG coordinates. For additional information about the U.S. National Grid system visit. https://usngcenter.org