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Florida to Adopt the United States National Grid (USNG)

Lessons learned from recent hurricane seasons have taught us that standardized grid maps for search and rescue and other activities are a necessity. In an effort to standardize maps in Florida for both emergency and other operations, the State Fire Marshal, as the coordinating agency for search and rescue under the State Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, and the Division of Emergency Management are embarking on a program to adopt the US National Grid as the standard in Florida. This project will ensure a uniform grid mapping system across cities and counties in Florida, and will match the system used by the National Guard, the US Coast Guard and the US military when they are deployed into our state.

Florida’s unique geography of miles of coastlines, multiple river corridors, and large watersheds make the use of the common section – township – range grid (PLSS) all but impossible except for a handful of inland counties. As the grid approaches wetlands, river corridors and the coast line, sections become irregular in shape and can be significantly larger than the typical square mile, which is too large to accommodate the needs of ground crews.

Adoption of a national grid system has been identified as ‘critical’ in a number of after action reports, investigations and studies dating as far back as Hurricane Andrew. FEMA, DHS, the National GeoSpatial Intelligence Agency, and the Federal Geographic Data Committee all promote the adoption of the USNG.

This project will pull together representatives from the various disciplines and agencies to form an implementation group, and training curriculum and materials are being identified. Project information will be distributed in the near future as we move forward with this important project.

USNG Background

The Federal Geographic Data Committee’s U.S. National Grid (USNG) standard provides a nationally consistent language of location that has been optimized for local applications.

  • All street maps use a standard set of street names and addresses to locate places. The USNG does not replace this practice; it supplements it.
  • USNG is a Presentation Standard. It does not replace data storage formats for either Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or the State Plane Coordinate System (SPCS) for engineering and survey applications.
  • USNG is an alpha-numeric point reference system that has been overlaid on the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) numerical grid. Every modest size home in a discrete area can be described using 8-digits (e.g., 1234 5678). By adding a two-letter prefix (e.g., XX 1234 5678), the location is identified regionally (state-wide). This alpha-numeric designator can be used today with many consumer GPS receivers costing less than $100.
  • The Army National Guard has been trained to use the USNG format. Additionally, USNG and the Military Grid Reference (MGRS) values are identical.

How to read USNG Information.