GIS Helps with Pre-Plan Linking and Updates in Compass Respond

​The Village of Northbrook, IL Fire Department has always prided itself on providing custom solutions and innovations to aid their staff and deliver the best possible service to their community.  One such example is their adoption and use of the custom Compass Respond software which allows them to link building plans and oblique imagery to locations on a map.  This is extremely useful to staff responding to an emergency by helping them to plan and prepare what they will encounter before reaching the scene.  However, the usefulness of this tool is only as good as the data behind it and it’s important to keep that data up to date.  When the Village receives new building footprints there are two important steps that the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department was asked to help with in incorporating these into the Compass Respond software. 

The first step was to make sure that the existing photos and building plans that were linked to the old building data by square footage could be transferred to the new data.  GIS was able to work within the Access database that houses these records and, by altering the linking mechanism to be a unique feature ID instead of the square footage, were able to add the new building footprints without losing any of the pre-made connections.  The second step was to work within the mapping component in Compass Respond to help make the review and linking of the plans and images easier for staff.  GIS was able to symbolize the buildings within Compass Respond by their zoning information which allows Village Staff to easily see and review the industrial and commercial buildings.  Address numbers were also added to the map to increase the ease of navigation and use through this process. 

Querying for Latest Fire Inspection Date

​The Village of Northbrook, IL Fire Department has been using an application called FireHouse to track incidents, inventory, and training since 2008 and the Fire Prevention Bureau uses FireHouse to manage property inspections throughout the Village.  Inspection data tracked includes date, address, occupant, inspector, and inspection type.  However, the Fire Prevention Bureau needed something more.  Since the installation of FireHouse the Bureau has looked for a method to easily determine the last time an inspection had taken place at an address in order to better plan and track inspections.  Being able to know when an address was last inspected, the Bureau can prevent missing inspections at some locations while avoiding unnecessarily re-inspecting others.  While FireHouse could query all inspections at a given location it could not filter inspections by only the last time an address was inspected.

The Village of Northbrook and their Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department had recently deployed Business Intelligence, a tool that connects directly to databases such as FireHouse, within their browser-based mapping application, MapOffice™, to perform queries to display certain data.  This was the perfect tool to accomplish the Bureau’s goal of determining the latest inspections for addresses.  Using the Business Intelligence tool, GIS staff was able to create a query to select only the last time each address was inspected, pulling data directly from the FireHouse database.  From that selection, inspections were then grouped by zones which certain inspectors are responsible for.   

Now, each inspector can display this information in MapOfficeTM to see the locations that need to be inspected based upon their last inspection date.  Since this data is updated daily through the direct connection to FireHouse, the Bureau Chief can actively monitor inspections and effectively coordinate efforts across all staff members.

Improving Accessibility to Data with Business Intelligence

To better understand why certain types of crime are concentrated in different parts of the village, the Village of Woodridge, IL Police Department was looking for a way to show the locations of the current calls for service, as well as information from their police database, in a spatial environment. While creating a static map product periodically would have been one option, a more dynamic option would be to integrate this data into the village’s web-based mapping application, MapOffice™, using Business Intelligence. Business Intelligence allows the police department to view these different data sources dynamically, side-by-side on a map and visualize trends that may not be readily apparent when looking at the data in a spreadsheet or other tabular format. 

Business Intelligence is a technology that allows connections to be made to a variety of data sources that include spreadsheets, databases, dispatch systems, and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. The Woodridge police department benefits from this type of connection since their service call data and police database are stored in different places. Now, when police staff use MapOffice™, they can see multiple data sources together, including call data, locations where illegal property trespasses have occurred, and where patrolling location of interest are located. Officers can also access this information in the field using laptops in their patrol cars.

Business Intelligence connections in MapOffice™ is a powerful technology that allows multiple sources of data to be integrated into a single location, which can provide deeper insight into common questions.

Using GIS to Delineate Disputed Fire District Boundaries

The Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Company provides the fire protection services to the Village of Glen Ellyn, IL as well as its surrounding unincorporated areas. Over the years there has been some dispute and confusion over whose jurisdiction some of the unincorporated parcels actually belong to. This dispute could lead to a potentially life threatening situation if an emergency happens in a disputed area where the dispatch center does not have the correct department information for a property. To assist with resolving some of these jurisdiction issues, the village’s Geographic Information System (GIS) department was consulted to help with determining the correct jurisdiction that these border parcels belong in.

GIS used a variety of resources in helping to determine the correct jurisdiction for each parcel. Using tax information provided by DuPage County, the borders of the response areas were redrawn to match the taxing body. The county data did have its limitations though. One difficulty with having a volunteer fire department is that residents within the district do not have a fire protection tax on their property tax bill, resulting in the county not being able to confirm that some of these unincorporated areas were in the Glen Ellyn fire district.   To get around this issue, a special service area was created in 2009 for all unincorporated parcels within the Glen Ellyn fire district, so that list was cross-referenced with the county data to provide an accurate picture for the boundary. Once this information was updated in the village GIS data, meetings were held between the Glen Ellyn Fire Company and neighboring fire districts to compare shared borders and work out any other possible indiscretions.

The final GIS data and printed map product were provided to DuPage Public Safety Communications (DU-COMM) where their dispatch system will be updated accordingly. This project helped more than thirty parcels get updated with the correct fire district information, resulting in more reliable fire protection for those properties. Using GIS saved a tremendous amount of time bringing all the taxing resources into one location making it easy to see where changes needed to be made.

Business Intelligence Launches in Northbrook


The Village of Northbrook has recently launched the MapOffice Web Access tool called Business Intelligence.  Business Intelligence is a tool that allows users to filter and display live data from community or custom databases. 

Three attributes of Business Intelligence, filtering, visualization, and live data, make it a very powerful tool.  Business Intelligence allows users to visualize data on a map by plotting that data by address or XY coordinates.  Many times, community databases or software do not have great ways to display the wealth of data they hold.  Business Intelligence helps solve this problem by connecting to those databases and displaying the data on MapOffice so users can gain further incite about the data or look for trends.

When looking for trends it is sometimes necessary to manipulate how you view the data.  Business Intelligence permits the user to filter the data by date and/or a field within the data.  For example, Northbrook has set up a connection to a custom home foreclosure database that allows users to filter foreclosures by date and the foreclosure status.  Now the user can narrow the data that is displayed to show only what they are interested in.

Finally, Business Intelligence offers live connections to the databases.  This can be extremely powerful as users can view and analyze data held in the database as it is updated without having to wait for data to be uploaded to MapOffice.

The Village of Northbrook looks forward to taking advantage of this useful and powerful tool by connecting to community databases and software such as FireHouse, an ERP system, and many others to come.

Highland Park Launches Community Portal


The City of Highland Park made a recent addition to the main page of the website; Property Search, also known as Community Portal. Highland Park has long been directing the public to MapOffice Public for their information needs but now the public has another site at just the click of a mouse.

Community Portal makes looking up property information quick and easy.  On the front page of the Highland Park webpage is a "Property Search" widget that directs the public to enter an address for more information.  When an address is entered in, Community Portal launches itself with a "Property Summary" landing page. Multiple tabs of information are provided within Community Portal and it is completely customizable based on the community’s needs. The idea behind Community Portal that makes it so different from MapOffice is that not all information needs to be displayed on a map such as garbage pickup day/time, rather just text information is needed which is where Community Portal steps in. It is the simplicity and ease of use that makes Community Portal so beneficial to Highland Park.

As Highland Park begins to understand what information the public is looking for, Community Portal will be developed further around that. As stated earlier, it is completely customizable based on the communities needs and that is how Highland Park will advance itself in providing need to know information to the public. More to come with Community Portal!

Using GIS to Assist in the Bid Process

​The Des Plaines Fire Department is on duty 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.  Challenges providing emergency services change with the seasons.  One of the largest hindrances to Fire Fighters in the winter is snow.  When Mother Nature pounds the city with snow for months the snow piles grow exponentially, as residents shovel driveways and municipalities plow roads.  Fire hydrants along the road easily become covered with snow, which makes them much harder to find in an emergency situation.  While Public Works, the Fire Department, and volunteer residents work to keep the hydrants clear, when a heavy snowfall occurs it is nearly impossible to keep all the hydrants visible. 

The Des Plaines City Council approved a proposal to add markers (5 foot tall poles with a flag on top) to fire hydrants to make them more visible in the winter months.  Fire Chief Wax decided that initially they wanted to mark all hydrants in cul-de-sacs and on roads with 4 lanes, as these locations collect the most snow. 


The Fire Department utilized GIS to determine how many hydrants were in these specific locations.  Cul-de-sacs and 4 lane roads were located in GIS and then a simple search of hydrants within a specified distance was performed.  By utilizing GIS and GIS data the Fire Department was able to give a very accurate estimation of the number of markers that were going to be needed.  The actual number needed was smaller than originally estimated, so the project will come in under budget.  Mapbooks of the hydrant locations were created and given to project bidders to aid in their bid estimate and will be utilized again when placing the markers on the hydrants.  By teaming together the Fire and GIS Departments were able to provide an quick and efficient bidding process, which in the end will benefit the city and its residents.

GIS Consortium 3D Mapping Potential


A recent objective of the technical staff in the GIS Consortium (GISC) has been to investigate the potential for 3D mapping and to be sure the GISC’s data model continues to advance and support these new technologies easily.  3D mapping in GIS has been possible for some time now, but it has always been a matter of the ease of doing so.  The value of the 3D products must provide a benefit greater than the time and software costs required to create them.


The GISC’s software provider, ESRI, has an extension called 3D Analyst which provides the 3D mapping opportunities by rendering GIS data that has elevation, height, or level information assigned to it.  A new addition to their suite, called CityEngine, provides for texturing of data to make it appear even more real if needed, but much more time is required to add those components to the map.  These zoning and tree infestation images highlight the kind of maps that can be created and analysis that can be performed using 3D Analyst.  It is quite clear how valuable the third dimension of information is to communicate the volume of infrastructure, natural or manmade, that exists in an area and the impact they have on their surroundings.  GIS is a decision support tool and 3D obviously has a part to play for the GIS Consortium member communities.

ArcGIS Online Finder Application


ArcGIS Online provides many downloadable applications that can be used on smartphones, tablets, and desktops.  This includes web application templates, which are specifically designed to take a web map and then apply graphics, charts, and other related information.  The templates are easy to use and require minimal coding and configuration to get them up and running.  One of these templates is the Finder Application, which is a configurable application template that allows the user to use an attribute search on various feature layers.  This is similar to the Find and Go feature on MapOffice™, but it can be configured to search for any feature attribute, not just address information.

Currently, the GIS Consortium and communities are using the ArcGIS Online Finder Application to create small web based maps that can’t be currently created in MapOffice™.  The Village of Deerfield has put together a web map that allows residents to search a cemetery for specific graves based on the deceased name, and The Village of Lake Forest has an application that allows a user to search for local landmarks.  By using the ArcGIS Online Finder Application, the communities of the GIS Consortium are using new technology to make data querying easier and more efficient.

Making Building Plans Available in Emergency Dispatch Software

When responding to an emergency dispatch call, first responders must be prepared to handle anything that comes their way.  For fire response in particular, it is important to have knowledge of the structure that is being responded to in order to effectively put out a fire or prevent one from spreading further.  A critical resource for knowing this information is building pre-plans, which are drawings that detail the layout of a building or structure and show the locations of things like utility shut offs (i.e. gas & electric) or where potentially hazardous materials are stored (i.e. oxygen or flammable chemicals).  To assist the Fire department with exposing this type of information in a spatial environment, the village asked their Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department to integrate these pre-plans with new dispatch software that was recently implemented. 

The computer-aided dispatch (CAD) software that was recently purchased has a mapping component that allows dispatch staff and responders to view information related to call locations.  Since connections to outside map applications can be consumed by the CAD software, this allowed for the integration of the village’s existing GIS environment and the Fire departments existing pre-plans into the CAD system.  The integration of the pre-plans into the CAD system involved manually mapping the utility and storage area locations in GIS from existing PDFs and computer-aided drawings provided by the Fire department. Once this process was complete, the pre-plan GIS layer was published as part of the village’s existing GIS map application that was also being consumed by the CAD system.   With these pre-plans now available in CAD, the process of accessing this valuable information has been streamlined so firefighters and other responders can more effectively do their job and be better prepared when arriving on scene.