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John Raugust, a civil engineering student at OSU, uses a GPS unit to plot coordinates for a fire hydrant near Falls City High School on Friday.
July 31, 2012
FALLS CITY -- John Raugust, a civil engineering student at Oregon State University, spent Friday afternoon searching for fire hydrants in Falls City.
It's not as dull as it sounds.
Well, maybe it is, but the purpose of the search is exciting for John McGee, the city's engineer.
Raugust, who is studying to be a land surveyor, was doing more than just finding the hydrants -- he was using GPS to help place them on a comprehensive graphic information system (GIS) map of city utilities.
McGee said, once completed, the map would be used by city staff. In the case of a large fire, the hydrant locations also could be easily shared with other fire agencies.
"This is not just a small town trying to figure out where its fire hydrants are," McGee said. "We will be able to share this information so we can serve citizens better."
The technology needed to build the map is expensive, so the city has been completing the task a little at a time, beginning with a base map provided by Polk County.
McGee said through a series of independent projects, such as the city's transportation and wastewater facilities master plans, staff has been slowly adding to the map.
"All these little pieces are coming together to create this bigger map," McGee said. "We are making grand strides toward having accurate maps in Falls City."
Planning staff at Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments have been working with the city to update the map, but in some cases field work is needed, such as Friday's search for fire hydrants.
Raugust was given a map of the city with all fire hydrants marked and turned loose to find them. With each hydrant he found, he used a hand-held GPS unit to coordinate the location. It took about two minutes for each hydrant. Most of that time Raugust just waited.
"I literally just turn it on and set it right there," Raugust said, placing the GPS unit on top of a hydrant near Falls City High School. "I just stand here for two minutes and it grabs the position."
Raugust volunteered his time and use of OSU's Civil Engineering surveying equipment to map the fire hydrants. Raugust had about 30 to locate.
Raugust said the project benefits not only Falls City, but OSU's geomatic's division (land surveying), which is seeking exposure through several similar outreach projects.
"It's a win-win situation," McGee added. "The students gain experience and the city gets a lot of free data."