Public health agencies make decisions that have far reaching consequences, and geography impacts these decisions on a daily basis. Geographic information systems (GIS) are powerful computer software programs which can enable agency staff to visualize spatial information in new ways, so that they can become better planners and problem solvers, particularly in the areas of disaster preparedness and response (Chang, 2002 ). Yet, although GIS is becoming more well-known, it is still a technology in
... its infancy, with the majority of public health staff not gaining all of the competencies required to utilize it effectively in the workplace. Although several departments within an agency, such as epidemiology and city planners, are often leveraging this technology, there are many other staff involved in disaster preparedness and response who are not using it, but who may need to in the upcoming months (Blanco & Mathur, 2005) . The Ubiquity of Geographic Information Recent demands on the public health workforce suggest that the geographic facets of disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery need to be addressed more specifically. This coincides with a set of developments from the information technology and geography fields. To begin with, from a technological perspective, there is increasing dissemination of the web based technologies, with online geographic processes increasingly integrated into the daily lives of millions of individuals worldwide. Google Earth, for example, can be used to display satellite imagery of varying resolution of the Earth's surface, thus allowing the general public to see content such as cities and houses perpendicularly or at an oblique angle. Google Earth also enables users to search for U.S.