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U.S. National Grid: An advocate makes the case for its use by first responders.

US National GrigClick here for demonstration of map coordinate systems that conform to coordinate recommendations of the National Search and Rescue Committee

In September, after we ran a story about an ambulance that couldn’t find a street address, we heard from a reader who made the case this wouldn’t have been an issue if the first responders had been using the U.S. National Grid.

It was not a topic we were very familiar with, but it is something near and dear to Al Studt’s heart. Al has brought this concern up following a number of other incidents including last week’s plane crash in Wheeling, Illinois.

Al  describes himself as a U.S. National Grid advocate and instructor with 26 years in the fire service in New York and Florida.  He is the PIO with Florida Disaster Engineers, Inc. He is also a Communications & Structures Specialist with FL-TF4 Urban Search & Rescue Team, based in Orlando and a lieutenant with Cape Canaveral Fire Rescue.

We asked Al to write up his thoughts on the subject so we could share them with you. He has done just that:

A major benefit to US National Grid (USNG) is that literally everyone can be on the same page; local Fire Rescue responders, dispatchers, EMS, law enforcement, Forestry, Emergency Operations Centers, out-of-area strike teams, National Guard, USAR, Red Cross, CERT, ham radio operators, Salvation Army, etc. Citizens could be easily trained how to use it. USNG coordinates can be used to reference locations with or without a GPS. If users have a GPS, they can relate their present position to a map. If users are issued a coordinate, they can find it. What does not work is Street Addresses in times when Street or Address designators are gone, obscured by smoke, flooding or instead are completely unfamiliar to the responding crew. Street addresses are also not relative to any off-road or wilderness emergency.

The fire service needs to take steps to implement US National Grid.


Comments - Add Yours

  • Texas Gordo


    Thanks for posting this. I fear that all the 20 something firefighters will find this much easier to adapt to than I. But this old dog keeps looking for new tricks.

  • anon

    Who owns the intellectual property rights to U.S. National Grid, and what are the royalty fees that users must pay?

  • Joseph Schmoe

    FEMA is pushing for National Grid/USMG for some time. While the idea has merit, the commitment required by EVERYBODY from the president all of the way down to Joe Six-Pack, makes it unlikely that it will happen any time soon. That and the fact that FEMA is for it.

    • Jonathan Doe


  • Anonymous

    Looked up a couple of addresses in my district – it is not very up-to-date. Many streets missing. Baltimore Metro Area.

  • Mark

    Per “anon”, take a moment or two and actually read the article. It’s very good and will answer questions like your’s re. “royalty fees”.

    “2) Change fire department map books to employ US National Grid instead of any proprietary or random ¨bingo¨ grids. Having A-Z and 1-9 on the margins is an example of a ¨bingo¨ grid; they are not interoperable.”

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  • AL



  • Al

    FEMA Director Fugate has drawn attention to the new USNG campus maps and information handout for the NETC (National Fire Academy) at:

  • Al

    Of interest:

    100 Day Road: 14R NT 5522 5222
    100 Day Street: 14R NT 4433 5019

    So, to 100 meters, the dispatch could have been “100 Day, grid 552 522″, uniquely defining the location in the jurisdiction and within 14R NT.

    Just by looking at the coordinates, one can see that Day Street is 11 Km west(55-44) and 3 Km south(22-19) of Day Road.

  • Al

    Darn if I didn’t mess it up in the early hours here…

    Last sentence should really be: “Just by looking at the coordinates, one can see that Day Street is 11 Km west(55-44) and 2 Km south(50-52) of Day Road.”

  • Al

    There are now numerous apps for phones that display Military Grid Reference System, the worldwide equivalent of USNG, for as little as 99 cents as follows; 

    $0.99 app for I-phone:
    $0.99 app for Android:



  • Al

    #1 idea on the FEMA Think Tank for weeks and discussed on national telecon with over (600) people yesterday:

  • Al

    See linked article: USA should take notice; benefits are the same all over.

  • Al

    Haven't updated in a while.  

    >>> Newest national document from NAPSG:

    >>> National land SAR designation:

    >>> new website:

    Dave, since response problems are an issue your are familiar with, see the NAPSG document and consider promoting please.