I know I tend to drop buzz words on this blog without explanation, me bad. Today I would like to explain a couple of mapping concepts that you may or may not know, and hopefully find interesting.
Like what the hell is a FIPS code? It stands for Federal Information Processing Standard and they are numeric codes used by the government to identify Places, i.e. States and Counties for my purposes. Every U.S. State has a two digit code just as they have an abbreviation and I have no idea where they originated from and it really doesn't matter. For example: Tennessee = 47, California = 06, Washington = 53, Idaho = 16 and Florida = 12.
Every County has a three digit code which are subsets of the State FIPS code in which they reside. For example: my County code is 099 which combined with my State code 47 makes up a unique FIPS code for Lawrence County, TN of 47099. This 5 digit FIPS code is the magic number from which all government mapping functions operate, just like the 5 digit Zip Code, which in my case is 38464.
Every FIPS Code and Zip Code have a defined geographical area in the form of an outline of the area (polygon) that are maintained by the government, which is where I get my data. This morning I extracted 33,144 Zip Code polygons from their website and stored them in my database. Combined with the 3,233 Counties and 50 States I stored yesterday, I have a good handle on the data and can present them on any map platform I choose. I hope you learned something from this!