Intelligent mapping helps to combat emergencies

Intelligent mapping helps to combat emergencies


Lincoln city’s police, fire, emergency medical services and emergency management operations are powered with GIS analytics to effectively prepare for and respond to incidents

Police Department of the City of Lincoln, Nebraska was an early adopter of GIS. Since mid-1990s, it has been using geospatial analysis and visualisation to fight crime. “GIS has essentially replaced the paper map. And mobile GIS takes information with the officer and fire fighter wherever they go,” says Tom K. Casady, director of public safety, Lincoln city.

Now Lincoln’s police—its fire, emergency medical services (EMS), and emergency management operations—are empowered with GIS analytics to effectively prepare for and respond to incidents. The city has extended its GIS benefits to the field using applications that run on smartphones and tablets. It also enables two-way information exchange between managers in the office and personnel on the street.

Lincoln police & fire services
“We took advantage of GIS for three primary purposes: improving situational awareness, discovering and analysing crime trends and patterns, and deploying resources more effectively”, says Casady.

Today, following a focused hunt for the perfect solution, ArcGIS and the CrimeView suite of solutions from Esri Gold Tier Partner The Omega Group are at the core of Lincoln Police Department’s Crime Analysis Unit. Crime analysts work with incident and crime data; police dispatches; and arrest and accident reports; as well as with data on parolees, sex offenders, people with wants and warrants, and gang members. All these different datasets are then compiled and analysed to generate bulletins and reports used by frontline officers and management staff and to feed interactive Web mapping applications for both police employees and the public.

The law enforcement agency also uses GIS to propel crime prevention strategy. For instance, 25% of Lincoln’s residential burglaries occur through garage doors—many of which are left open or unlocked. GIS analysis revealed when and where these burglaries were most likely to occur. Armed with this information, atrisk areas were identified and targeted to find open garage doors and to alert residents.

“This strategy has been immensely successful in preventing the specific type of burglary, and this in turn has driven an overall reduction of residential burglary in Lincoln,” says Casady. GIS solutions have been extended to Lincoln Fire and Rescue Service. The agency makes extensive use of GIS for analysing fire and medical calls for service, planning resource deployment, and navigation to an incident. Fire fighters also use GIS to access building pre-plans and stage operations for major incidents.

For example, Lincoln Fire and Rescue deployed GIS to carry out a station relocation study for its 14 fire stations. In response to population growth, annexations, and increased calls for service, the agency needed to ensure that travel time to incidents would stay under four minutes, the mandated national benchmark standard. Using ArcGIS and Network Analyst, the agency looked at a variety of potential changes to fire station locations and the impact these moves would have on response times. GIS-based maps helped visualise information and make it actionable.

In addition, maps created for both fire and law enforcement are used in the department’s emergency communications centre and integrated with the 911 telephone system for instant map display of calls.

The city of Lincoln, Nebraska’s dashboard provides a comprehensive view of information

GIS where and when you need it
The emergence of broadband capabilities has made cloud GIS practical on mobile devices. Lincoln police officers and fire fighters have access to various applications not only on mobile computers docked in their vehicles but on several types of handheld devices, including iPads, iPhones, Android smartphones, and Android tablets.

At the police department, officers use an innovative location-based services application, Proactive Police Patrol Information (P3i), which presents officers with a GPS-enabled map of points of interest in their immediate vicinity as they go about their work. Information that was previously accessible via desktop computer or mobile data terminal is now available on mobile devices in a mapping application that moves with the officer. Officers can view and access records related to calls for service, arrests, crimes, warrants, citations, parolees, probationers, gang members, and sex offenders. They can identify recent criminal activity, persons of interest, field interviews, and other information at or around a specific location.

Instead of coming back to the vehicle or report room, officers can quickly look up information from wherever they are located. They can view a specific location’s 911 call history or an individual’s crime history. For example, a patrol officer can look at vehicle theft or home burglary in a neighbourhood when responding to an individual incident to see if there is a possible crime trend that warrants more immediate attention.

The mobile GIS capability improves tactical crime prevention, response, and suppression. It also helps protect officers on the street by giving them detailed, accurate, and timely information. A similar technology is under development for Lincoln’s fire fighters and paramedics. The Fire and Rescue Department has created a GIS viewer linked to the department’s computer-aided dispatch records that allows a user to click an address from a dispatch record and immediately be launched into the GIS viewer. The user is automatically zoomed to the address of the dispatch and presented with a variety of critical information: basemap, aerial photos, ownership information, fire hydrant locations, and even detailed floor plans for high-risk facilities.