Aggregating Data and Analyzing Localized Flooding

Locating and addressing storm water and flooding issues are an important responsibility of any community and their Public Works Department.  The Village of Northbrook, IL Public Works Department began to look at localized flooding by aggregating multiple sources of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data into a single platform.

GIS was asked to compile multiple sources of data including known flooding areas, current building footprints, historic aerial photography, FEMA floodways, and residential construction permits.  The village’s browser-based mapping application, MapOfficeTM, is the perfect interactive mapping application in which to hold all of these data sets using already accessible tools, such as historic aerial photography dating back to 1998 and a tool to display the FEMA floodways, and the ability to create custom layers for display.

With the aggregated data, Public Works looks for trends that might correlate residential construction with known localized flooding.  Residential construction permit data dating back to 1998 was collected from the Planning department’s databases and added as a custom layer in MapOfficeTM, along with known flooding areas provided by Public Works and building footprints data held in GIS.  Now, Public Works staff can compare current building footprints to historic building footprints using aerial photography and see when and what type of residential construction took place.  Staff can now look for trends in residential construction and increases in building footprint square footage to see if those might be contributing factors to local flooding issues.  Trends in residential construction can also help Public Works to plan future storm water projects to prevent flooding.

Aggregating this information in MapOfficeTM has been a crucial and effective tool in assisting the village with identifying potential problem areas for flooding and developing strategies to mitigate flooding in the future.

Using Business Intelligence to Track Home Foreclosures

In the past the Village of Northbrook, IL has worked with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to setup a process to help better record and track properties as they move through the foreclosure process.  This process involves a monthly review of mailed foreclosure documents and entry of dates into an excel spreadsheet correlating to when a lis pendens or pre-foreclosure notice is filed, when the property is found to be in foreclosure, and finally when the court approves the sale of that property and it is no longer in foreclosure.  Previously a static map was created from this information and sent to the Community Development and Planning Department and Police for use in their workflows.  With the new capabilities provided by Business Intelligence connections in the village’s browser-based mapping application, MapOffice™ Web Access, this process has been streamlined and provides increased access to the associated foreclosure information. 

To allow for this connection to occur, GIS created a database connection that allows Village Staff to query the information stored in the foreclosure spreadsheet in MapOffice™ by property status and date.  These query results are then displayed by location in MapOffice™ Web Access.  Using Business Intelligence, community staff has increased access to the information being tracked within the excel spreadsheet, where before they could only see the latest date and status for a specific property.  They also able to view the individual dates and gain a better understanding of the history behind a property.  Also, because the legal documents are scanned and stored by address within the village’s document management environment, a custom hyperlink is included with each entry which staff is able to click on to directly find and view the specific documents associated with the dates displayed on the map for verification or more information.

GIS Shows Village Development with New Story Map

The Village of Northbrook, IL Community Development and Planning Department approached the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department with the idea of using an online map application to help display and promote the development projects within the Village.  GIS chose to use a template called a Map Journal because it allowed for the integration of different multimedia formats such as text, images, map elements, and hyperlinks.  The interactive and media based template really draws in and engages the viewer.  This template serves as a great way to aggregate all the pertinent information related to a specific development project in one place and makes it easily consumable and accessible over the web or from a mobile device. 

The Map Journal template was also very useful for this project, because the builder allows for quick updates to be made when there are changes to a development project, or a new entry needs to be added.  Instead of having to upload entire datasets when a modification is made, GIS can easily work within the builder to make and save changes.  Finally, the map was customized to fit the look and feel of Northbrook’s website branding to create an elegant and useful website for the public to gain a better understanding of the major residential and commercial development projects within their community.   

GIS Helps with Pre-Plan Linking and Updates in Compass Respond

​The Village of Northbrook, IL Fire Department has always prided itself on providing custom solutions and innovations to aid their staff and deliver the best possible service to their community.  One such example is their adoption and use of the custom Compass Respond software which allows them to link building plans and oblique imagery to locations on a map.  This is extremely useful to staff responding to an emergency by helping them to plan and prepare what they will encounter before reaching the scene.  However, the usefulness of this tool is only as good as the data behind it and it’s important to keep that data up to date.  When the Village receives new building footprints there are two important steps that the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department was asked to help with in incorporating these into the Compass Respond software. 

The first step was to make sure that the existing photos and building plans that were linked to the old building data by square footage could be transferred to the new data.  GIS was able to work within the Access database that houses these records and, by altering the linking mechanism to be a unique feature ID instead of the square footage, were able to add the new building footprints without losing any of the pre-made connections.  The second step was to work within the mapping component in Compass Respond to help make the review and linking of the plans and images easier for staff.  GIS was able to symbolize the buildings within Compass Respond by their zoning information which allows Village Staff to easily see and review the industrial and commercial buildings.  Address numbers were also added to the map to increase the ease of navigation and use through this process. 

GIS Aids Public Notification Systems

Providing residents with notifications of emergencies and current events can be a difficult task for any community.  The Village of Northbrook, IL has deployed a public notification system using an online application called Everbridge.  Residents and businesses throughout Northbrook can sign up to receive notifications on a variety of topics.  Notifications can include emergencies or weather related disasters, hydrant flushing, road construction, or current events pertaining to the village. 

Everbridge has a mapping component to aid in selecting resident contacts for notifications.  Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has been involved with the village’s notification system workgroup to be sure Everbridge, specifically the mapping component, is used as effectively as possible.  GIS has been able to use existing data layers, such as the village boundary and the Public Works maintenance grids, and upload them to the Everbridge application.  Staff can use these layers to select and target residents to provide notifications that are pertinent to them.  For example, Public Works performs hydrant flushing in certain neighborhoods throughout the village based on their grid system.  Now, Public Works staff can use Everbridge and the layers provided by GIS to select and notify only the residents within grids that are being flushed that week. 

These preloaded layers can also be extremely useful in the case of severe weather and flooding.  Residents in specific areas can be notified of street flooding, downed trees or electrical wires by using Public Works grids or fire districts to target the residents affected.  In emergency situations, the preloaded layers can save valuable time in sending out notifications and limit the number of phone calls being placed to Public Works by providing accurate information to residents who need it.

Querying for Latest Fire Inspection Date

​The Village of Northbrook, IL Fire Department has been using an application called FireHouse to track incidents, inventory, and training since 2008 and the Fire Prevention Bureau uses FireHouse to manage property inspections throughout the Village.  Inspection data tracked includes date, address, occupant, inspector, and inspection type.  However, the Fire Prevention Bureau needed something more.  Since the installation of FireHouse the Bureau has looked for a method to easily determine the last time an inspection had taken place at an address in order to better plan and track inspections.  Being able to know when an address was last inspected, the Bureau can prevent missing inspections at some locations while avoiding unnecessarily re-inspecting others.  While FireHouse could query all inspections at a given location it could not filter inspections by only the last time an address was inspected.

The Village of Northbrook and their Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department had recently deployed Business Intelligence, a tool that connects directly to databases such as FireHouse, within their browser-based mapping application, MapOffice™, to perform queries to display certain data.  This was the perfect tool to accomplish the Bureau’s goal of determining the latest inspections for addresses.  Using the Business Intelligence tool, GIS staff was able to create a query to select only the last time each address was inspected, pulling data directly from the FireHouse database.  From that selection, inspections were then grouped by zones which certain inspectors are responsible for.   

Now, each inspector can display this information in MapOfficeTM to see the locations that need to be inspected based upon their last inspection date.  Since this data is updated daily through the direct connection to FireHouse, the Bureau Chief can actively monitor inspections and effectively coordinate efforts across all staff members.

A Breath of Fresh Air for Capital Improvement Project Planning

Each year many communities must review and re-evaluate their Capital Improvement Project (CIP) plan.  In the Village Northbrook, IL this is a long and detailed process which plans major projects for the next five years and, after the creation of the plan, it must then be presented to the Board of Trustees.  While preparing for this presentation, the Village Manager came to the village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department looking for a way to present the information in a new, exciting, and engaging method which demonstrates GIS’s capabilities.

Before Northbrook joined the GIS Consortium, the CIP plan was presented using PowerPoint slides and printed maps in handbooks.  The year after Northbrook joined the GIS Consortium a custom layer was used to display the different CIP projects by planned year in the village’s browser-based mapping application, MapOfficeTM.  While this was a great improvement for presenting the CIP information to both the Board and the public, it had its limitations.

GIS was able to use leverage an online mapping application called ArcGIS Online to create a customized and an extremely interactive presentation experience called a Map Journal that is useful to both the Board and the public.  The Map Journal is able to combine the interactive map capabilities of MapOfficeTM with presentation styling’s of PowerPoint.  The Map Journal can include text explaining the CIP projects, charts or graphs outlining the finances, and pictures showing areas in need of improvements and the engineering plans and diagrams to fix them.  The Map Journal is even capable of embedding websites and videos for a truly interactive experience.  The Map Journal is a simple web application that will be available on the Village website for easy access by residents, thereby making the planning process more transparent to all impacted parties

Modeling Retention Pond Capacities

Managing storm water is a major issue for all GIS Consortium communities.  When a recent home improvement was proposed in a small subdivision of the Village of Northbrook, engineers were concerned about the ability of the retention ponds for that subdivision to hold increased storm runoff.  Engineering contacted GIS to help determine the capacity or volume of water the two retention ponds can hold.

GIS was able to used contour data and as-built drawings to model the slopes and depths of the retention ponds.  That data was then converted to a Raster, a GIS feature used to model elevation as seen in the image above, which can then be used to perform complex analysis.

Using the GIS Consortium shared resource, Spatial Analyst Extension, GIS was able to utilize tools that analyze the elevation raster and calculate volumes and surface areas at given elevations.  GIS was then able to provide engineering staff with the retention pond capacities (volumes) at many different elevation levels.  The retention pond capacities could then be compared with impervious surface calculations and projected runoff volumes to determine if the ponds can handle the additional water load. 

The retention pond capacity study completed by GIS provided engineering with useful and accurate information that otherwise would have been taken many hours of hand calculations perform.  The data provided allowed engineering staff to make the best possible decisions regarding home improvements and storm water runoff.

Retention Pond Mapping

Retention ponds can play a vital role in storm water management and flood control.  The Northbrook Public Works Department worked with GIS in order to help map and track the retention ponds in the Village.  Previously, a spreadsheet with an address was used to track the location of retention ponds.  Public Works wanted to ability to visualize these locations on a map while still maintaining the information available through the spreadsheet.

So, what is the purpose of tracking retention pond locations and what information is valuable to know about them?  First, it was very important for Public Works to know the locations of the outfalls.  During heavy rain events, the outfalls can become backed up and prevent water from flowing as designed.  It is important that the outfalls become cleared quickly.  By mapping those locations as a custom overlay on MapOfficeTM Public Works can then spend less time looking for outfalls and get them cleared sooner.

Public Works also tracks who is responsible for retention ponds and clearing any blockages.  When a call comes in about a blockage, Public Works can easily see who is responsible and notify the caller if it is a private retention pond.  The custom overlay will also be available to the public so they can gather this information themselves. 

Other Village departments can also benefit from the tracking of the retention ponds, especially in the centralized location of MapOffice.  Engineering can store information such as pond volume or hyperlinks to drawings.  The Fire Department can track depths in the case divers are needed during missing person searches.

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.