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.