Developing the City’s Fire Grid using GIS

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Managing vehicle response times is a critical component of any local
or regional public safety agency. Having the drivers of each vehicle
trained with an in-depth knowledge of the community’s road network and
address layout is vital, as knowing the shortest or best route to a
location could make the difference between a successful and a failed
emergency response. To assist with helping the department’s engine and
ambulance drivers to learn the city street network, the City of Des
Plaines, IL Fire Department asked the city’s Geographic Information
Systems (GIS) department to create a series of grid maps covering the
entire community, which could be used as a guide to locate a specific
street or address when en route to an emergency response call.

To start the grid development process, the GIS staff provided the
Fire Department with a basic street map of the city, which could be used
as a template to divide the community into grids based on the
department’s different response criteria (i.e. engine response area,
automatic aid, etc). Once the city was divided, the map was returned
to the GIS department and a series of preliminary maps of each grid were
developed for the department to review, with each map containing the
street names and addresses present in each grid. Through a series of
reviews, the maps were steadily built into the final product, with
hydrants, park names, and high risk building locations being added as
supplemental features to the street names and addresses already present
on the maps. Once the final gird maps were developed and approved, they
were provided to the Fire Department and combined into map books that
are currently available in each vehicle for reference.

By developing the grid maps, the Fire Department was able to leverage
the street network and address information, along with other critical
fire response features, that are available in the city’s GIS system and
use that information to enhance the department’s day-to-day operations.
By making this information readily available to the department’s
vehicle operators, the department has improved the ability of each
driver to navigate the most efficient path to an emergency location,
thereby increasing the chances that they will respond to each call
successfully.