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.

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!

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.

Analyzing Ambulance Response Using GIS

Improving emergency response times in a community requires knowledge of areas that receive a large volume of dispatch calls, as well as past trends that may help in forecasting future response needs.  To assist with conducting this type of analysis, the Village of Tinley Park, IL EMS department leveraged their local Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department to acquire this knowledge for consideration when determining whether to renew an existing ambulance contract or move on to explore other options. 

To analyze past call pattern trends, GIS was used to spatially display ambulance call locations from 2012 through 2014 to help visualize areas of high volume, both overall and for several different scenarios.  A series of maps were created that displayed the count of calls by address, as well as a "hot spot" map that compares localized call densities to determine areas of high activity and areas of low activity.  When these maps are compared side-by-side, the user can determine call trends over the last few years and how these trends could impact the village residents based on the chosen service provider.

In addition to identifying trends in call volume, call density mapping can also be used as a data exploration tool for public safety department staff when determining what may be the cause for areas that have experienced increased or decreased call activity. Once these areas of interest have been determined, future analysis can be done to determine if department response initiatives, socioeconomic factors, or other influences may be the cause.

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.  

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


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.