When GPS goes Wrong-Homeowner Says Crews Demolished Wrong House-News Story-WSB Atlanta

Homeowner Says Crews Demolished Wrong House - News Story - WSB Atlanta

Source: WSBtv Atlanta Channel 2

Here's a disturbing news story highlighting exactly why it's important to understand the tools you are using, like GPS, and what the limitations might be. It also may be that the GPS position was fine, the relocation of that coordinate in the field was fine but there may have been a serious lack of judgment.

WSBtv. com Atlanta Channel 2, reports that in Carroll County, Georgia, a demolition company demolished the wrong house. The home, now demolished, was owned by Al Byrd who said that he could not believe his eyes. In addition to everything in the house being destroyed, Mr. Byrd went on to explain that his father had built the house himself.

"The demolition company said it had paperwork.

"I said, ‘Paperwork for what?' and he said, ‘For the house, to demolish the house.' I said, ‘I'm the owner of the house, I haven't given anybody any authority to demolish this house,'" said Byrd. Channel 2 Action News reporter Jovita Moore asked Byrd if the demolition company had an address.

"I said, ‘What address did you have?' and he said, ‘They sent me some GPS coordinates.' I said, ‘Don't you have an address?' (and) he said, ‘Yes, my GPS coordinates led me right to this address here and this house was described,'" said Byrd."

Source: WSBtv.com Atlanta Channel 2

One possibility is the demolition company that demolished the wrong house showed up at the correct location and then picked the wrong side of the street. This, certainly, would not the fault of GPS.

What gets lost in the chatter and babble of the clash with GPS, GIS and Surveying is that no amount of technology, precision, or accuracy can be a substitute for good professional judgment. Yes Sparky, it's not always about the numbers and math. This surprises many people.

The willy-nilly use of any technology or system as a substitute for sound professional judgment is always a concern. As soon as people become overly comfortable with any technology, to the point where they stop using good judgment, or plain common sense, and do not put in place any checks and balances, is when significant and tragic events like this happen.

I can poke my finger on any USGS map and give you a coordinate for that location. That doesn't mean that it's at all accurate or worth using. Because a little box of plastic and electronics can give you a coordinate does not relieve you from understanding that there is more to the story. Is this coordinate representing an accurate location? Should you be thinking about things beyond simple location-Like is this the correct house to demolish?

Three last words on this subject:

  • Precision.
  • Accuracy.
  • Sound Professional Judgment.

Professional Land Surveyor Source: Homeowner Says Crews Demolished Wrong House - News Story - WSB Atlanta.

Since originally posting this this morning, I'm adding the following video:

Profile photo of EricColburn

Eric D. Colburn, PLS, "The Geo-Business Innovator", helps geo-professionals improve through innovative solutions, mastery of marketing and business growth strategies, and coaching/training. Eric is a successful, serial entrepreneur, podcaster, industry writer, product development consultant, and RI licensed professional land surveyor.

Posted in Associate Membership, Business, GPS, Land Surveying, Land Surveying Videos, News, Videos Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
6 comments on “When GPS goes Wrong-Homeowner Says Crews Demolished Wrong House-News Story-WSB Atlanta
  1. Brian Benton says:

    Why would anyone go to a house with nothing but GPS coordinates? Nothing about the “reason” this house was chosen for demolition by the crew makes any sense. It’s a house, how do you find a house? by it’s address. How did they find their way there? A series of waypoints? I’ll bet not. they probably used a map, or at least road directions. Go to such and such street turn left until you get to N24d W81d? I don’t think so. Blaming GPS coordinates does not hold water with me.

  2. Eric

    Thanks for this! I very much enjoy your perspective on the profession. People outside our profession need this information!

  3. Profile photo of admin admin says:

    I agree with you. I think that there is more to this story, too. Blaming it of the GPS coordinates just seems to me as a convenient deflection of responsibility when there really was no excuse. There must have been a street address, description or some other information to go by – Not to mention that the destroyed house was full of possessions and was clearly being lived in.

    However, I’ve noticed that several of the contractors I work with use GPS to dispatch construction crews to job sites and the construction crews use turn by turn directions to get to the job site. Sometimes destination is developed from a street address and sometimes the boss will pick a coordinate from, say, Google Earth.

    With that said, and I’ve tried to tell them this, many street addresses when converted do not yield accurate locations of the ground. If you punch my street address in these systems it says my house is over 1000 feet west of its actual location. Look out neighbor!

    And, if the boss picks the wrong place on the screen, they could also go to the wrong place. Photo identification can be dicey, can’t it.

    In either case, there needs to be more checks and balances in place if you’re using GPS to dispatch crews. If that’s what actually happened here. Very scary stuff. Everyone’s an expert on how easy land surveying is, until they have to do it and do it well.

  4. Profile photo of admin admin says:

    Just added video interview with homeowner.

    Address, what address, did someone say address?

  5. Sunith Babu says:

    Hi Eric,

    This is some thing interesting but dangerous too. Technology has both positive and negative traits


  6. Warren says:

    OH my Goodness Oh my Goodness
    could this happen here – possibly
    at least in Rhode Island you are required to obtain a Demolition Permit

    The Permit requires

    Utility disconnect verification; Power, Phone, Water, and Gas
    Rodent infestation baiting certification.
    Asbestos abatement verification.
    Bond Insurance certificate for Demolition Contractor.
    As A Building Official I also require signed, notarized, verification bearing the Owners Signature and to a fault both signatures if jointly owned.

    As a building official it’s a lot easier to explain how you erred by issuing an improvement permit that to justify a missing structure.

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    […] When GPS goes Wrong-Homeowner Says Crews Demolished Wrong House …What gets lost in the chatter and babble of the clash with GPS, GIS and Surveying is that no amount of technology, precision, or accuracy can be a substitute for good professional judgment. Yes Sparky, it’s not always about the numbers … […]