DeLorme, the mapping company based in Yarmouth, is helping Australia and countries in Southeast Asia prepare for a disaster like the 2004 earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

The company contracted with Australia’s government and the regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations to supply its “world base map,” a highly detailed map that coordinates with global positioning devices, said Caleb Mason, a DeLorme vice president.

Mason said the map, fed into GPS devices, will allow rescue workers to pinpoint key features such as rivers, roads and railroad lines, and critical infrastructure locations such as electrical substations. That information will enable responders to update plans rapidly to fit the specific emergency, Mason said.

That’s what happened after the earthquake in Haiti in January. DeLorme rapidly updated its maps of that country and got the data to relief workers quickly, allowing them to go to where they were needed based on information about routes that were actually open.

Older maps are often out of date, Mason said, showing railroads that don’t exist or failing to show roads that have been built recently.

“Before GPS came along, maps were drawings of what should be on the ground,” he said. “We spent the last five years just building a new world base map from the ground up.”

Mason declined to say how much the contract with Australia and ASEAN is worth to DeLorme.

The company is also rolling out a product to help first responders, particularly in rural areas or where power has been knocked out, Mason said. The PN-60w is a handheld GPS device that uses a device developed by a company called Spot to let users send text messages via satellite.

Spot was originally a small device that allowed a user to send a brief, pre-written message, such as an SOS for a user in dire trouble, a lower-urgency request for help, and a simple “I’m OK” message to let loved ones know that a hike or back-country ski trip was going well.

Spot and DeLorme’s product allows text messages to be typed on an internal “keyboard” on the DeLorme mobile GPS device. Right now, the messages can go only one way — from the user in the field to an e-mail account, Facebook or Twitter. Mason said the two companies are working on ways to have two-way communication in future models.

While the device could be of use to first responders, it’s aimed at those who like to go to out-of-the-way places and do activities, such as mountain climbing, that take them away from constant communications.

The device is already attracting attention. Last month, DeLorme and Spot won a “best in show” award at the Summer Outdoor Retailer show from GearJunkie.com.

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]