Using GPS Linked Photos to Map Flooded Locations

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 With smartphones becoming more and more prevalent as an operational tool
in local government, opportunities to leverage the benefits of some of
the more advanced options available to users are increasing. One such
benefit was recently use by the City of Des Plaines, IL to assist city
staff with tracking and documenting flooded locations that occurred as a
result of a recent emergency flood event. By activating the Global
Positioning System (GPS) functionality on their smartphone cameras, the
city’s Engineering department staff was able to both take photos of the
flooded locations to show the level of impact and, at the same time,
track the location of that photo within the city. To assist with
developing a comprehensive view of where flooding occurred in the city
based on the photo locations, the city’s Geographic Information System
(GIS) staff was asked to extract the coordinates that were captured with
the photos and generate a map that could be viewed by all city
departments.

All the photos that were taken during the flood event were downloaded
from each smartphone and provided to the GIS department for analysis.
Using a photo properties analysis process, the GIS staff was able to
extract the coordinates from each photo and compile them in a list. To
ensure that the coordinates were able to be mapped natively in the
city’s GIS environment, the list was post-processed and converted from
the smartphone coordinate system to the city’s coordinate system. From
there, the list could be mapped and displayed as needed by city staff. 

Emergency Event Tool is activated in Business Intelligence

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The Village of Winnetka has been hard at work developing and
fine-tuning its Emergency Event Tool for emergencies as flooding,
tornadoes, blizzards and more. This tool was brought to the test on
April 18th, 2013 after a major flooding event in the Chicagoland area.
Winnetka was experiencing large amounts of downpour rain in a small
amount of time and required the assistance of GIS and Business
Intelligence to track flooding patterns and areas of concern. Through
the Emergency Event Tool, the flooding was able to be further analyzed
by staff.

Having an overall visual of where the emergency is happening and any
patterns can lead to more efficient response times. The Emergency Event
Tool is staff-controlled through an Access Database and implemented in
real time mapping through Business Intelligence. With just a click of
the mouse, Winnetka staff is able to view where the emergency is
occurring at any moment with the most up to date information. This was
proven to be essential in tracking the April 18th event. Staff was
trained on how to use the Access Data Entry Form and how to report
calls. Once a staff member entered an event, the Emergency Event Tool in
Business Intelligence would immediately update its data. In an
emergency event, having up to date information is crucial and the
Emergency Event Tool does just that!

Real-time emergencies are inevitable but can be better controlled and
tracked with the Emergency Event Tool. Through the analysis of events
such as April 18th, the Village of Winnetka is able to develop and
execute efficient policies and standards for future events.

Emergency Event Support

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 While most local government responsibilities are often limited to
providing operational services or policy support to its residents, for
example providing garbage pickup, there are times when those
responsibilities extend to responding to an emergency storm event. For
the City of Des Plaines, IL, such an event occurred on April 18th,
2013, which resulted in record flooding and widespread damage throughout
the community. As part of the city’s response to this event, the
Geographic Information System (GIS) department was asked to coordinate
the development of an interactive map product that could be referenced
by the public from the city’s website and convey updates on what was
happening around the community.

Using an existing map application available on the city’s public
website, the GIS staff used inputs from other city departments, such as
road closure locations and sandbag placements, to build a series of map
layers that were then added to the map application for display. Once
these layers were integrated into the existing application, a link to
access the mapped information specific to the flood event was provided
in announcements that were periodically posted on the website alerting
residents on the status of the flood response. These layers were
updated during the event itself and during the city’s cleanup efforts to
ensure all efforts by the city to restore normal operations were
transparent to the general public.

Using GIS and the existing map resources available provided city staff
with a powerful supplemental resource for distributing information to
community residents. By showing this information in a spatial
environment, residents could easily see the context of each know problem
area and better plan how to avoid those areas as they traveled within
and outside the city limits. 

Emergency Management Map Books

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The Village of Glencoe is a small community and is surrounded on all
sides by Highland Park, Northbrook, Winnetka, and Lake Michigan. On
occasion, these other communities have to provide emergency aid to
locations within the Village of Glencoe limits. Since the neighboring
fire and police department don’t have an intimate knowledge of Glencoe,
like its own emergency management department does, they need extra
information provided to them to make sure they can respond to call in a
timely manner. The Village asked the GIS Department to create a map
book that could be handed out to neighboring communities, which would
provide them with essential information if they needed to respond to a
call.

Each page in the map book corresponds to one of the ten fire
districts within the village. Each page shows information such as:
addresses, streets, important buildings, and fire hydrant locations with
flow rates. The back page contains a street name list that lets the
user know what fire grid each street is located in and if that street
spans multiple grids. The map books are 8.5” x 11”, so they are small
enough that they can be stored in an emergency vehicle. By using GIS,
the Village of Glencoe was able to put together important information
for neighboring communities in a portable format that provides emergency
responders with crucial information about the Village.

Using GIS in Emergency Scenarios

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​In October, the Village of Lincolnshire staff held a table-top
discussion on its emergency management plan. To test how well everyone
knew local procedures as well as to evaluate the effectiveness of the
existing plan, selected supervisors were given a practice scenario and
had to explain how they would respond. GIS was enlisted to assist with
this by creating a map showing the extent of the damage from a
hypothetical tornado strike. On the day of the drill, the supervisors
received a copy of the map and discussed the challenges that this
situation would present to the various responding departments. 

GIS
was also asked to briefly present on how this technology could be used
to support response and recovery operations for the Village. As a member
of the GIS Consortium, Lincolnshire has access to a 24-hour hotline
number to request GIS support on an emergency basis. When an after-hours
issue arises, a GIS specialist can be paged to come on site and help
with information collecting, tracking, and sharing. Having a central
source of information will allow the various departments to communicate
more effectively in the hours and days after the disaster; maps can be
quickly generated and distributed to share findings from different
sources as they come in. Additionally, as internet access becomes
available, GIS can be used to provide information to the public about
the recovery efforts, the location of resources such as food, water, and
shelter, and other critical spatial information that would help those
affected by the emergency.

Creating hospital mapbooks with GIS

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The ambulances for the Village of Wheeling Fire Department can take
patients to approximately 30 hospitals in the Chicago-land area.
Because some of the hospitals are frequented less and are many miles
outside the Village limits, each ambulance contains a book of maps
detailing the location of each hospital. The maps are simple location
maps made from data over 10 years old. The Fire Department requested
that the maps be modified and updated to reflect current data.

A new map book was created with each page of the book representing a
different hospital. The street data was updated and the page was
divided into two separate maps: a large map showing the location of the
hospital and a smaller map showing its location in relation to the
surrounding communities. By having the maps in each ambulance, the
paramedics are able to easily locate hospitals that they are not
familiar with, and make sure they arrive at their destination.

Creating hospital mapbooks with GIS

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The ambulances for the Village of Wheeling Fire Department can take
patients to approximately 30 hospitals in the Chicago-land area.
Because some of the hospitals are frequented less and are many miles
outside the Village limits, each ambulance contains a book of maps
detailing the location of each hospital. The maps are simple location
maps made from data over 10 years old. The Fire Department requested
that the maps be modified and updated to reflect current data.

A new map book was created with each page of the book representing a
different hospital. The street data was updated and the page was
divided into two separate maps: a large map showing the location of the
hospital and a smaller map showing its location in relation to the
surrounding communities. By having the maps in each ambulance, the
paramedics are able to easily locate hospitals that they are not
familiar with, and make sure they arrive at their destination.

June 21st Storm Event Cleanup

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During an emergency event, the extent of the area affected and the
number of issues occurring as a result of the event are just some of the
factors that need to be processed, organized, and reviewed by local
government staff to determine the most appropriate course of action.
Perhaps the greatest challenge of any emergency response effort is
controlling where information is coming from and determining which
pieces of information are more critical than others. To help better
organize information gathered during a recent storm event, the City of
Des Plaines IL used the city’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
department to assist with mapping and prioritizing the storm cleanup
efforts.

While the initial response to the storm event relied heavily on more
traditional forms of data organization and presentation, an effort to
streamline the cleanup efforts resulted in GIS being used to develop
several mapping products that assisted city staff with visualizing the
storm damage. These included a traffic signal outage map, a road
closure and downed trees map, and a damaged property map that was
developed using information gathered by city building inspectors during
the initial damage assessment review. Using these products, city staff
was able to better visualize the extent of the damage and, as a result,
develop a more effective plan for cleaning up the city.

June 21st Storm Event Cleanup

Blog_June21stStormEventCleanup.jpg

During an emergency event, the extent of the area affected and the
number of issues occurring as a result of the event are just some of the
factors that need to be processed, organized, and reviewed by local
government staff to determine the most appropriate course of action.
Perhaps the greatest challenge of any emergency response effort is
controlling where information is coming from and determining which
pieces of information are more critical than others. To help better
organize information gathered during a recent storm event, the City of
Des Plaines IL used the city’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
department to assist with mapping and prioritizing the storm cleanup
efforts.

While the initial response to the storm event relied heavily on more
traditional forms of data organization and presentation, an effort to
streamline the cleanup efforts resulted in GIS being used to develop
several mapping products that assisted city staff with visualizing the
storm damage. These included a traffic signal outage map, a road
closure and downed trees map, and a damaged property map that was
developed using information gathered by city building inspectors during
the initial damage assessment review. Using these products, city staff
was able to better visualize the extent of the damage and, as a result,
develop a more effective plan for cleaning up the city.

Planning for the protection of open space

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The Village of Wheeling is currently preparing for the National Flood
Insurance Program Community Rating System (CRS) review. The review
takes into account various aspects of flood prevention infrastructure in
the village and ultimately decides the percentage of savings a resident
receives for flood insurance. One of the important aspects of the
review is a village’s preservation of open space within the floodplain.
By having the floodplain clear of structures and impervious surface
area, the village receives a higher score due to the lower possibility
of damage occurring.

For the village to receive credit for open space preservation, it had
to create a list of village owned properties that had areas in the
flood plain. Then, the square footage of each area within the floodplain
had to be calculated subtracting out any impervious surface area such
as roads, sidewalks, parking lots, etc… which was then compared to the
entire area of floodplain within the village. The final ratio of open
space to flood plain is then used to determine the overall score for
open space preservation.

By using GIS, the village was able to save a significant amount of
time by using base map data that already existed and floodplain areas
provided by FEMA. By using GIS to calculate the areas of open space and
impervious surface area for each property, the village did not have to
spend time going through building plans and calculating everything by
hand. The CRS review is not until later in the year, but by tackling the
Open Space Preservation section now, there will be time later to make
adjustments to the data.