Symbology Background


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Symbol Availability

The information contained herein is the work of the FGDC Homeland Security Working Group including Federal, State, and local agencies. The set of symbols shown is a work-in-progress. The official symbol set will not be released until the standards process is complete.


The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) Homeland Security Working Group has been tasked to develop a standard set of symbols for use by the Emergency Management and First Responder communities at all levels of need (i.e. National, State, Local and Incident).

Federal, state, and local agencies worked together under the auspices of the FGDC's Homeland Security Working Group, to develop the proposed symbology. Symbols and their definitions have been developed for Incidents, Natural Events, Operations, and Infrastructures at a level to provide immediate and general understanding of the situation. While these symbols do not include all emergency management features, they provide an initial framework for emergency management and first responder mapping and communication. Detailed attribution for any feature can be included by the user. Both a category structure and a damage-operational status hierarchy were developed using color and frame shapes with line patterns. The symbology was designed for use in digital and paper map products.

A voluntary evaluation by the Emergency Management and First Response community provided the Working Group with a preliminary assessment of the utility and acceptability of the symbology prior to it's formal submission to a consensus-based standards body such as the American National Standards Institute. It is anticipated that when these symbols become standard, their widespread adoption by the emergency management, first responder and software vendor communities will make them readily available and consistently used in emergency management mapping applications.


The Approach - A comprehensive review and evaluation of existing symbology was performed prior to the development of the symbols. Whenever possible an authoritative source was used as a starting point. The symbology was designed to ensure scalability and cross-disciplinary/cross-cultural flexibility.

Point Symbols - Currently, the scope of this standard is limited to point symbols. However, the standard is expected to expand at a later date to include lines and polygons. Additional details can be stored as attributes and displayed in a way appropriate to your specific map or application. For example, "football stadium" could be carried as an attribute of the "Open Facility" feature within Infrastructure/Public Venue.

Frame Shapes - To further distinguish between the four categories, frame shapes or border patterns (diamonds, circles, and rectangles) are used to visually classify the symbols into their respective groups (Incidents, Natural Events, Operations, and Infrastructures).

Color vs. Black & White - The symbols are designed to be distinctive in either a color or a black and white environment. While a colored symbol frame can be used to denote the level of damage or operational status, the pattern of this frame also denotes the status. See the damage-operational section of this document.

Scale - The symbols were designed for application at the large and medium map scales typically used by emergency managers. If a very small symbol is required (below 12 point), it is recommended that you use the category shape as the symbol. For instance, use a diamond to represent an incident. Additional information can be provided via legend, labels, and attributes.

This page last updated: September 14, 2005 10:15 AM

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