Using MapOffice to View FEMA Documentation


The City of Lake Forest, IL Engineering Department needed a method to quickly look up residential properties that have been granted a FEMA Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA). When a property owner thinks that their property has been incorrectly mapped in a Special Flood Hazard Area, the owner may submit a request to FEMA for a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA). The granted LOMA will state that an existing structure is on naturally high ground and will not be overcome by a base flood. Acquisition of a LOMA could result in reduced flood insurance premiums. 

FEMA sends copies of the granted LOMAs to the requestor and to the applicable community. These letters are used by the community to ensure floodplain regulation compliance. Previously, the LOMAs were filed and had to be manually referenced and sorted through during the permitting process. To expedite this workflow, the digital LOMAs were all renamed to be indicative of the associated address. Each LOMA address was mapped as a point feature and related to the appropriate document. The locations are now shown in MapOffice as a custom overlay. When a user searches a specified property in MapOffice and selects the location, the LOMA will appear in a new browser tab.  

Enabling users to search and view LOMAs by address in MapOffice saves community staff time and residents can receive a prompt response about floodplain related inquiries. Staff members no longer have to sort through documents to locate the correct file. If a resident is applying for permits where the flooding is of concerns, staff can quickly search an address and determine that a LOMA has been granted. 

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.

Collecting Asset Inventories Using Mobile Applications


The City of Lake Forest, IL Engineering Department collects a sidewalk condition inventory every five years. This inventory is used to spatially plan annual capital improvement projects. Historically, Engineering staff field survey sidewalk conditions with a laptop and desktop Geographic Information System (GIS) software to identify areas of concerns. The sidewalk inventory information is then exported to spreadsheets and populated with construction dates which coordinate with the rest of the City’s Capital Improvement plan. To help streamline this process and remove some of the steps involved, the sidewalk survey is now performed using a mobile application called Collector provided by a company named Esri.

With the use of the free Collector application, staff can now perform the sidewalk inventory using just a tablet or smartphone. This method eliminates the need for using a laptop to conduct this inventory. Using Collector, users create a point at a desired location, define attributes associated to that point, and capture a related photo. The captured sidewalk survey data is then extracted from the tablet onto the Engineering workstations. The data can now be exported in a spreadsheet form and used for capital improvement planning and biddings.

The above process can be replicated to field capture any location inventory. Utilizing a tablet or smartphone is a more convenient platform for use in the field. The intuitive functionality of the mobile application reduces training time compared to advanced GIS software. The ability to capture the inventory without requiring desktop GIS software saves money in licensing fees and provides the city with the flexibility to replicate the process for collecting other asset information in the future.

Bike Network Information Added to MapOffice™


The City of Des Plaines, IL obtained a Congestion Mitigation and Air
Quality (CMAQ) grant in 2008 to assist in the development of the city’s
bike network. By the summer of 2011 this grant provided enough funding
to develop a bike network that includes 15 miles of signed on-street
routes and 5 miles of shared lane markings or other supportive pavement

In the past, information regarding the bike network was available to
the public through a series of static PDF maps on the city’s website,
but city staff wanted to consolidate information to make it easier for
residents and staff to view. To do this, staff from the Engineering
department worked with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) personnel to
develop a custom layer for display in MapOffice™, the city’s
interactive map application. Within this custom layer the current bike
network is symbolized by the type of routes that are currently in place
and proposed future route improvements. Bike rack locations are also
included in the layer, as well as points of interest found along each
route. This layer is displayed in both an internal version of
MapOffice™ available to village staff and well as a public version of
MapOffice™ available on the city’s website.

Making this information available in the city’s interactive map
environment allows residents and staff to view the bike network
spatially and also obtain information regarding the network features.
City staff hopes that this layer will give residents easy access to more
information about their bike riding options and provide answers to
questions that were previously only available by contacting the city

Using GIS for Community Rating System Accreditation (CRS)


The City of Lake Forest recently went through an accreditation
process for the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating
System (CRS). CRS is a national program developed by the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a guide to assist communities with
designing or improving their floodplain management programs. Improving
floodplain management within a community can result in discounted flood
insurance premiums. CRS consists of a rating system that allots credits
for completing flood management related activities, with a community’s
rating determining the percentage of the premium discount. The more
activities completed, and the higher the quality with which they are
completed, the larger the impact on a community’s rating.

Engineering and Geographic Information System (GIS) staff
collaborated to establish the city’s rating by completing different
activities and projects required for the CRS review. Fulfilled projects
include calculating floodplain and open space acreage and creating an
online floodplain map accessible to city residents.

Having access to the aforementioned resources enabled these projects
to be completed quickly and accurately. By using GIS, the City of Lake
Forest gained a higher accreditation rating within the CRS program.
This higher rating will result in city residents experiencing a more
significant reduction in their flood insurance rates.


MapOffice Public to Display Capital Improvement Information


The City of Lake Forest was looking for a new method of displaying
the City’s Capital Improvement projects to the public. Previously a
static PDF map would be displayed on the City’s website highlighting
where the construction projects were occurring. GIS personnel worked
Engineering staff to develop an interactive Capital Improvements map
that would provide more information than just a geographic location.

To achieve this interactive method of display, the Capital
Improvement locations were implemented into MapOffice as a custom
overlay. The overlay was made available in both MapOffice Advanced and
Public. By selecting a Capital Improvement location on the map, a dialog
box will appear displaying the most current information about that
given project. This feature allows users to not only spatially visualize
the project, but to also obtain information about the project.
Available information includes start/end project dates, contractor
information, city project contacts, and project status information.
Engineering sends GIS staff a spreadsheet of weekly project updates. GIS
then implements the updates into the Capital Improvements overlay. This
keeps all of the Capital Improvements information stored in one easy to
access location and with all the other capabilities of MapOffice on

The Capital Improvements overlay provides the City an easy way to
share information with residents. Previously, this simple mapping
project has developed into an all in one information and location
system. With enhancing information access to the public, residents can
further avoid contacting the city directly for more information.

Pavement Management Program


The Village of Tinley Park, like most municipalities, has both short
and long term pavement management programs. These programs are designed
to insure the Village is consistently and strategically making repairs
to roads throughout the Village on a yearly basis. Often time these
repaving or patching programs will coincide with planned storm,
sanitary, and water utility replacements in an effort to reduce cost and
stress on local residents. Tinley Park uses an outside consulting firm
to manage all engineering planning and implementation. As a means of
communicating and viewing these plans with Village staff, specifically
public works, the engineering firm provides information pertaining to
the planned improvements to Village GIS staff in order to map the
information and distribute it to staff

The engineering consulting firm provided a paper map, as well as
spreadsheets with specific to/from street information with the length
and type of repairs. The GIS staff was then able to create the data to
scale, and post the information as a custom layer on the Village’s web
mapping application, MapOffice ™ Advanced. As shown in the image,
Village staff can now view and print the information from any computer
with a network connection, along with the ability to view imagery and
various other utilities that may be in the area of planned repair.
Finally, the Village will also have the capability to easily convert the
data to public information when informing residents about planned road
closures. By using GIS to display, store, and analyze the information,
the Village has greatly improved their ability to share and plan for
future improvements on their roadways.

Using GPS Linked Photos to Map Flooded Locations


 With smartphones becoming more and more prevalent as an operational tool
in local government, opportunities to leverage the benefits of some of
the more advanced options available to users are increasing. One such
benefit was recently use by the City of Des Plaines, IL to assist city
staff with tracking and documenting flooded locations that occurred as a
result of a recent emergency flood event. By activating the Global
Positioning System (GPS) functionality on their smartphone cameras, the
city’s Engineering department staff was able to both take photos of the
flooded locations to show the level of impact and, at the same time,
track the location of that photo within the city. To assist with
developing a comprehensive view of where flooding occurred in the city
based on the photo locations, the city’s Geographic Information System
(GIS) staff was asked to extract the coordinates that were captured with
the photos and generate a map that could be viewed by all city

All the photos that were taken during the flood event were downloaded
from each smartphone and provided to the GIS department for analysis.
Using a photo properties analysis process, the GIS staff was able to
extract the coordinates from each photo and compile them in a list. To
ensure that the coordinates were able to be mapped natively in the
city’s GIS environment, the list was post-processed and converted from
the smartphone coordinate system to the city’s coordinate system. From
there, the list could be mapped and displayed as needed by city staff. 

GIS Assists in Locating Flood Damaged Properties


The April 18th flood of this year wreaked havoc all around the
Midwest. Park Ridge residences were among those whose basements and
properties took a beating from the floodwaters. Residents were asked to
fill out an online survey to assess their individual flood damage. The
results of these surveys would be then passed on to the city and to
FEMA. The Department of Public Works is very interested in seeing if
there are any patterns of flooding from this ​current flood or a 2011
flood that also had an online survey available for residents to fill
out. GIS was chosen as the best method to quickly visualize any
potential patterns that may exist.

Address lists were provided to GIS from the surveys of both flooding
events. Each year was initially mapped individually and then compared
against each other. A map was subsequently created showing the locations
of properties damaged in both 2011 and 2013. Areas that have been
damaged by both flooding events will be studied more closely to see if
there are any improvements the city could make that would alleviate
future flooding. Without GIS, the thousands of addresses damaged by the
two floods would have to be manually located and drawn in on a map which
would take countless man hours as well as increase the probability of
error in the address locations.

Flood Response and the Value of GIS in Decision Making


On April 18, 2013, a series of severe thunderstorms resulted in a
significant flood event for much of Chicagoland. Thirty-eight counties
were declared disaster areas by the state because of the significant
damage that occurred. Communities along the Des Plaines River, including
Lincolnshire, were hard-hit by rapidly rising water that took more than
one week to recede back to normal levels. The Village activated its
Emergency Operations Center that morning to organize its response.

GIS played an important role throughout this event. First, resident
calls and field crew observations were mapped with different symbols to
represent the flood-related problem so that incident command could
visualize where the hot spots were. This map was posted in the Emergency
Operations Center as well as updated in real time through a custom
overlay in MapOffice™ Advanced. This constant flow of data supported
decision making so that response crews and resources were used wisely
and efficiently.

Once the river crested, GIS was used to visualize the extent of the
flooding. Using existing contour line data, the on-site specialist
estimated the path of the high-water line along the Des Plaines River.
This area was used to generate a list of affected addresses, which a
Village inspector used as a basis for collecting damage reports. This
data will also be provided to Lake County to support its request for
federal support. In the future, if the Village faces a similar flood
event, the high-water line can be reused to estimate the impact before
it actually happens and take steps to protect property and people before
the water rushes in.