Re: [atoca] Next milestone

Art Botterell <> Tue, 25 September 2012 20:47 UTC

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Subject: Re: [atoca] Next milestone
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On Sep 25, 2012, at 12:17 PM, Mark Wood wrote:
> Actually the only component that really needs to translate from FIPS to
> WGS84 is the Aggregator/Gateway system. This is because it needs to apply
> policy to the proposed message on the basis of sovereignty of the territory
> under the polygon. 

This is another interesting and somewhat subtle point.  To what extent... and to what end... is it appropriate and/or necessary to "clip" warning geometries to reflect political boundaries?  I'd suggest that that's a political consideration, not a technical necessity nor a universal requirement.

From the perspective of public service it might actually be more useful to convert the other way... given a hazard polygon, compute the list of jurisdictions (in this case, U.S. counties represented as FIPS-based strings) than the other way around.  That could provide support for legacy systems that can't target any more precisely than the county level, and also provide notification of all jurisdictions touched by an alert, even if the alert came from a different source (an adjoining jurisdiction, say, or a national meteorological agency.)

The arguments for limiting alerts to the originating jurisdiction strike me as possibly less noble.  Certainly government agencies tend to be jealous and exclusive about their privileges, but hazards don't care.  And am I not entitled to prompt warning of a nearby hazard just because there happens to be an administrative boundary in-between?  Will the county line protect me somehow?

Indeed, mechanisms aimed at political turf protection were one of the major sources of delay and warning failure in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

So... how to strike the balance between the privileges of authority and those of citizenship?  The answer is that it's not actually up to us  Different countries and different cultures will have different values and legal frameworks.  So we probably want to be cautious about trying to instantiate any particular value system in technology.

- Art