GIS Integrates with Emergency Dispatch System

The Village of Tinley Park, IL recently invested in a new public safety dispatch system with mapping and vehicle tracking capabilities.  Mapping capabilities for emergency response is crucial and having a map that shows detail such as building outlines, parking lot entry ways, and hydrant locations allows emergency responders to formulate a response plan prior to arriving on scene. The village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program, along with the dispatch system vendor, was able to setup a web mapping service that allowed first responders the ability to directly connect to the village’s GIS mapping environment.  This direct connection helps provide them with the most up to date mapping information. 

The mapping functionality and highly detailed map product integration came at no additional cost to the village and the ability to connect to the map was an out of the box function of the dispatch system, making this entire process a cost effective resource for the village’s local responder. The dispatch base mapping is also tied into the centralized village GIS databases.  Having the base map tied into these centralized GIS databases allows for easy updating of the map from one location and eliminates the need to update data in several locations. This saves multiple man hours while also providing a detailed, customizable map to dispatchers and first responders.

Warning Siren Decibel Propagation Analysis

​The Village of Skokie, IL uses their warning sirens for both alerting residents of impending emergencies and declaring alternate-side street parking.   Since these sirens serve as a method for notifying village residents regarding multiple issues, the Village of Skokie wanted to conduct an analysis to ensure their siren noise propagation covered the entire village and could be heard clearly by every resident.

Leveraging their local Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department, the village conducted this analysis based on the known locations and sound decibel range data for each siren that was provided by the manufacturer.  By viewing this information spatially, Skokie was able to see that their current siren alignment provides total coverage for the entire village.   As a result of confirming the level of siren coverage, village staff can confidently respond to requests from residents for siren information or claims of not being able to hear sirens.  By integrating this siren propagation information into the village’s internet browser based mapping application, MapOffice™, as a viewable layer, village staff are now able search for the address of the calling resident, locate their property, and find which decibel rating the property falls under.   This reduces staff guesswork and provides a simple and efficient tool to quickly respond to resident inquiries.

New Fire Station Wall Maps Created


With the recent decision to join the RED Center, Regional Emergency Dispatch Center, the Des Plaines Fire Department has had to make several changes in order to fit into the RED model.  Part of these changes includes a new numbering system for their fire response grid.  With all of these changes taking place it seemed to be an ideal time to create new large maps to hang in the fire station garages.  The current maps are showing their age, and are now longer accurate because of the RED Center transition.  

The process began with the Fire Department reviewing their data (i.e. district boundaries, automatic aid, tollway response areas, and response grid).  The GIS Department posted the various datasets to MapOffice in order for the Fire Staff to review them.  The Chief and Deputy Chief identified what areas needed to be revised and updated.  The GIS department then made the requested changes to the GIS data in the database.   

Once the data was made current, the GIS Department and Fire Department worked together to decide what information should be included in the map, how it should be symbolized and determine the most useful layout for their new wall maps.  A new design of the street index was requested as well as customized legends for the tollway response index and fire grid response index.  These items were then created by the GIS Department and included in the map.  The map went through several rounds of review and was finally brought to a RED Center operations meeting for a final review.  At this meeting final decisions were made regarding the tollway response areas.  Since all of the data was stored locally in the GIS database revisions were quick and easy to make.   

By working together the GIS department was able to create the most useful map for the fire department and a new system for updating these maps was put in place, so as not to allow maps to become severely dated in the future.  

Updated Photogrammetric Mapping History for GIS Consortium Members

​A proactive approach is taken every year to update GIS Consortium members on how current their spatial data is. The GIS Consortium photogra​mmetric vendor is a nationwide engineering, mapping and survey firm that provides high-accuracy geospatial data that the counties cannot. All available orthophoto (aerial imagery similar to what one might see on Google), planimetric (roads, buildings, rivers) and topographic (elevation) data is visualized by the year it was purchased. Aerial LiDAR coverage is also shown with the topography data. This technology produces surface models from laser pulses emitted from a helicopter or plane. The color-coded maps allow communities to budget for updated data by seeing which areas have been updated in the past and if those areas have seen any significant construction or demolition over the years.

Collecting and maintaining accurate data for a Geographic Information System (GIS) program assures the base map is complete and allows GIS users, municipal employees, and decision makers to consume precise data and make decisions based on accurate, complete data. Commercial mapping companies​s might provide good data from a regional perspective, but their price and low precision are not ideal for local governments. Up-to-date photogrammetric and topographic data is beneficial to both MGP, Inc. employees as well as their clients.

Expect the best when planning for the worst: Emergency Management in the GIS Consortium

​One of the core beliefs at MGP is to actively improve upon the past. But how do we make improvements to a process when its very nature is unpredictable? Such is the challenge with emergency response planning, as no two incidents are the same and emergencies are always unexpected. However, we learn a lot with each emergency event, and leverage this information to develop new tools for use in all GIS Consortium communities.

One of the challenges that every community faces in an emergency event is how to communicate with residents. One way to do this efficiently is to have a standard template that can be filled in with event-specific information at a moment’s notice. With this goal in mind, a team of MGP staff members reviewed the data from past severe weather events to look for patterns. Those commonalities were documented in GIS format and put into a template with a standardized naming convention and symbol set. Now, every community has a ready-to-use environment for collecting and storing information, which will save the time it would take to create something from scratch. In turn, communities can publish relevant information in that template to residents


Fire Inspection Reporting

The Village of Oak Brook, IL routinely inspects commercial properties to insure each building is compliant with local, regional and federal fire safety standards.  This is a standard practice across all municipal and regional fire agencies, performed by fire prevention bureaus and often tracked in paper or digital format.  Oak Brook’s fire department has been using software called Firehouse™ to track the type, location, frequency, and findings of all inspections done throughout the Village.  This information is regularly accessed and reviewed by administrative personnel, but can sometimes provide too much information or be overly complex to access and consolidate into a consumable format.  In order to have a quick reference summary for the previous month’s inspections, the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department was asked to map all inspections and categorize them by the type of inspection that took place.

In order to not duplicate work being done within the Firehouse™ software, the GIS department decided to setup a live connection to the table within Firehouse™ that is tracking inspection information.  This type of live connection allowed the fire department to continue tracking inspections as they always have within Firehouse™, but also provides an automated process that allows staff to map each inspection location and access its pertinent information through the village’s web mapping application, MapOffice™.  The process for retrieving and displaying this information in MapOffice™ allows for weekly, monthly, and annual summaries of the data to be easily generated by staff without having to duplicate any data entry or change their daily inspection tracking process.  By integrating GIS with their already existing operations, administrative personnel now has a tool that summarizes all the information they’re looking for in and easy to use, visual format.

GIS Assists with Fire Department Dispatch Transition


In September of 2013 the Des Plaines City Council approved allowing the Fire Department to switch dispatch services from the Des Plaines Emergency Communication Center (DPECC) to Regional Emergency Dispatch (RED) Center.  RED Center is a consortium of 14 area fire departments, located in Northbrook, which provides dispatch services. 

Changing dispatch providers is large undertaking which involves many moving parts.  Every detail is of the utmost importance because residents’ lives depend on the response time of emergency services.  One of the biggest components of the transition was providing RED with the address data for the entire city.

In order for the address data to be input into RED’s computer aided dispatch (CAD) system the Fire Department needed to determine the street address ranges of every road segment.  Road segments were determined by splitting roads at intersections.  Intersections include anything that crosses the road such as another road, railroad, trail or river.  The Des Plaines Fire Department utilized GIS and GIS data in order to construct the address information needed by RED.  Using tools within ArcGIS the street address range and intersection data were combined in order to create address ranges on the left and right side for each road segment.  Fire response grid data was also applied to the newly created address ranges in order to determine which response grid they fall within.  By utilizing GIS and its available tools the Fire Department was able rely on a mostly automated process to create the necessary data rather than an entirely manual review which would have taken a lot more time and would have been subject to a greater risk of human error.    

Using GIS to Assist with Fire Hydrant Maintenance

The Des Plaines Public Works & Engineering Department is tasked with maintaining a majority of the fire hydrants found in the city.  It’s important that they are well maintained, so in case of an emergency the Fire Department can count on the equipment to function properly.  Hydrants are cared for every other year; therefore hydrants are checked in either even or odd years. 


Historically, the Public Works department would color, with markers, the hydrants on a citywide water system map based on their maintenance year (even or odd).  If changes were ever made to the maintenance schedule they would color a new map and post it to the wall.  In order to make this process more efficient and with a lot less manually input, the data was digitized and entered into GIS.  The even and odd year maintenance areas were drawn in and when updates are needed the information will simply be changed in the GIS data rather than having to re-do the entire system map.

The newly created hydrant maintenance maps were printed off and given to the maintenance crews to keep in their vehicles while doing inspections.  The secretary who previously was tasked with coloring the maps is very excited to spend her time on more pressing issues.

Fire Incident Live Mapping Using Business Intelligence

In the past, the Elk Grove Village Fire Department has only been able to view its Fire Incident data in a map view, using the Firehouse software application. GIS has successfully connected directly to Firehouse data to create a live mapping view of Fire Incidents for Fire Department staff. Not only can Fire Department Staff now view Fire Incidents within the village by date, but they can also select by type of incident at the same time!


The Fire Incident Business Intelligence view in MapOffice will not only provide staff with a simple, easy to use mapping tool for Incident location lookup, but it can be used to identify patterns in incident location or incident type. For example, if there have been numerous fires occurring within a certain area, Fire Department staff could identify the pattern using the Fire Incident view in Business Intelligence to help determine the cause. Another benefit is that this is a live data connection, which saves time by removing an update procedure to be performed by GIS staff. The live data connection is just one of many great benefits of a Business Intelligence Connection. Lastly, by demonstrating this incident mapping technology, Fire Department staff will take more care and quality assurance as to the address or incident location put into Firehouse database. By doing this, there will be an increase in the quality of incident data in addition to the knowledge of the countless possibilities of analysis that may be performed.

Accessing Laserfiche through MapOffice(TM)


Over the years, the Village of Northbrook has scanned paper documents including, engineering drawings and plat maps in the effort of going paperless using software called Laserfiche. Laserfiche provides a framework for storing, organizing, and searching scanned documents. There are many benefits to having paper documents digitized including the ability to create backups and reducing staff’s time that went towards manually searching through boxed historical records.
The GIS Consortium created an easy way to find these documents using MapOffice. Staff can save time by locating the address they are interested in on MapOffice and turning on a Custom Overlay of the Village Subdivisions. Staff can click on the subdivision and bring up a hyperlink of the folder containing the associated documents and drawings for the subdivision the address falls into. The integration of Northbrook’s GIS data and Laserfiche will provide an invaluable tool for staff members when they need to access information.