USA – The Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) recently embarked on an ambitious campaign that provides a communication network built using ESRI geographic information system (GIS) software. The system takes advantage of a Web portal for linking local resources with state and federal stakeholders in the event of a large-scale emergency. This two-way stream of information flow is vital to disaster response.
“We wanted to leverage resources already in place with other state agencies and in the universities across the state,” says Roger Koelpin, GIS/critical infrastructure planner, Indiana Department of Homeland Security. “We are able to work with those partners as resources for our internal disaster recovery strategy and continuity of operations planning. Ultimately, we hope to turn this into a viable process for bottom-up reporting of data to meet federal data calls and to keep our federal partners informed as part of our routine, authoritative, common operating picture.”
IDHS selected ESRI for its GIS software and services. ESRI Professional Services staff worked with IDHS staff to incorporate ESRI software, including ArcView, ArcEditor, and ArcInfo, into its disaster response system. The system’s technology framework involves ESRI business partner ESi and its WebEOC Web-enabled crisis management system. In addition, FME from Safe Software, Inc, was selected to help extract data from stakeholders’ Web feature services and transform the data to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security data model.
The enterprise disaster response system provides several functions. First, it is used for mitigation, with state agencies identifying high-risk populations, infrastructure, natural resources, and other assets. Second, it provides instant-response capabilities. When a disaster strikes, real-time situational awareness occurs. Commanders make quick decisions on where to send law enforcement, fire personnel, emergency medical services staff, and other responders. They can instantly see available resources, prioritize activities, and monitor events in real time as they unfold. This capability also helps with long-term recovery.
A major component of the system comes from Indiana university partners who are already using GIS and related technologies to publish IndianaMap: a single, statewide geospatial resource for Indiana that includes a wide variety of information in a format that is accessible to both expert GIS users and the general public.
IDHS is currently working with county stakeholders to more fully integrate their GIS efforts with its own. Presently, 23 counties offer data in support of the IDHS disaster response system. Roughly one-third of Indiana’s 92 counties host their own GIS software and databases. Another third of the counties have vendors hosting their data in proprietary 911 call-center applications. Some of these counties are working with their vendors so that they may help maintain the IDHS common operating picture. Some of the counties in the remaining third are using grants to bolster GIS operations, either with vendor support or on their own.
IDHS is also working to extend the system with more applications and data than are currently available.