A geographic approach to emergency management

​During an emergency event, the type of event, the extent of the area
affected, and the number of issues occurring as a result of the event
are just some of the factors that need to be processed, organized, and
reviewed by local government staff to determine the most appropriate
course of action. Perhaps the greatest challenge of any emergency
response is controlling where information is coming from and which
pieces of information are more critical than others. Using GIS
(Geographic Information System) as a tool in all stages of the emergency
management process brings a spatial component to the planning and
implementation of an action plan, helping to visualize all relevant
information for a more efficient and successful community response.

As with other tools used to assist during an emergency response, a
GIS system will only produce a product as good as the information it’s
provided. Therefore, while visualizing things such as flooded
intersections or downed power line locations is an advantage of using
GIS, keeping the information in the system current is critical to
ensuring that advantage is maintained. Integrating a geographic
component into the overall emergency operations plan for a community can
help to ensure that any status updates to an incident are inputted into
the GIS system and, thereby, reflected in any mapping products that are
produced.

Adding spatial context to an emergency event, and having the ability
to track how the event is changing and affecting the community
residents, is a powerful tool for local government in determining how to
respond. It also provides a means for information provided from the
field to be visually filtered to allow critical information to be easily
processed and prioritized. Having a robust GIS system in place to
assist with the information management of an emergency event improves
the effectiveness of the local government staff and provides a vital
tool for sharing critical information across all departments.

Supporting Village electric pole inspection

Blog_Supporting_Village_electric_pole_inspection.jpg

Having an accurate inventory of the components that make up a
municipal utility system is very important to the overall success of a
city or village maintaining that utility at a high performance level.
While this type of inventory has traditionally involved descriptive text
information regarding a particular utility system feature, with a
robust GIS system that same inventory can now contain a spatial
component. By adding this spatial aspect, the municipality can better
track and maintain their capital investments and the overall integrity
of the system. Recently, the Village of Winnetka took advantage of its
GIS system to help develop an electric pole inventory for its Water and
Electric department to use for future maintenance and analysis.

Developing a utility inventory can include GIS on varying levels of
involvement and complexity. For the Village of Winnetka, a basic GIS
pole feature class existed prior to the current inventory, however it
lacked completeness, both spatially and in attributes, and was not
heavily used by the Village staff. To help make the data more complete,
the Water and Electric Department hired a utility consulting firm to
collect GPS field data of the village poles, using the existing GIS pole
features as a base. Having an existing GIS database structure to work
from, the data collection only took a few days and was able to be
seamlessly transitioned from the field to the office using a simple
database relationship. While the Village GIS Department did not create
the more advanced inventory currently being used, it did provide the
basic framework that made the data collection process run more smoothly
and provides the tools for viewing and analyzing the final product.

Moving forward, the Village can now use the electric pole information
to help locate potential problem areas and better plan for future
enhancements or changes to the system. While the existing, descriptive
text inventory that was primary being used was useful for general
information about a specific pole, it did not provide a holistic view of
how that information related to other assets across the Village. By
integrating a spatial component, the department can now better analyze
how individual parts of the system relate to each other and be more
informed about the system moving forward.

Using GIS as a medium to store utility system information provides a
significant advantage to governments at all levels when considering the
time and money it can save in general maintenance and everyday labor.
Viewing this kind of information spatially and relationally to
surrounding features, as the Village can now do with its electric poles,
expands the ability of both individual departments and overall
government bodies to maintain higher performing systems and more provide
more reliable services to their residents.

Supporting Village electric pole inspection

Blog_Supporting_Village_electric_pole_inspection.jpg

Having an accurate inventory of the components that make up a
municipal utility system is very important to the overall success of a
city or village maintaining that utility at a high performance level.
While this type of inventory has traditionally involved descriptive text
information regarding a particular utility system feature, with a
robust GIS system that same inventory can now contain a spatial
component. By adding this spatial aspect, the municipality can better
track and maintain their capital investments and the overall integrity
of the system. Recently, the Village of Winnetka took advantage of its
GIS system to help develop an electric pole inventory for its Water and
Electric department to use for future maintenance and analysis.

Developing a utility inventory can include GIS on varying levels of
involvement and complexity. For the Village of Winnetka, a basic GIS
pole feature class existed prior to the current inventory, however it
lacked completeness, both spatially and in attributes, and was not
heavily used by the Village staff. To help make the data more complete,
the Water and Electric Department hired a utility consulting firm to
collect GPS field data of the village poles, using the existing GIS pole
features as a base. Having an existing GIS database structure to work
from, the data collection only took a few days and was able to be
seamlessly transitioned from the field to the office using a simple
database relationship. While the Village GIS Department did not create
the more advanced inventory currently being used, it did provide the
basic framework that made the data collection process run more smoothly
and provides the tools for viewing and analyzing the final product.

Moving forward, the Village can now use the electric pole information
to help locate potential problem areas and better plan for future
enhancements or changes to the system. While the existing, descriptive
text inventory that was primary being used was useful for general
information about a specific pole, it did not provide a holistic view of
how that information related to other assets across the Village. By
integrating a spatial component, the department can now better analyze
how individual parts of the system relate to each other and be more
informed about the system moving forward.

Using GIS as a medium to store utility system information provides a
significant advantage to governments at all levels when considering the
time and money it can save in general maintenance and everyday labor.
Viewing this kind of information spatially and relationally to
surrounding features, as the Village can now do with its electric poles,
expands the ability of both individual departments and overall
government bodies to maintain higher performing systems and more provide
more reliable services to their residents.

Garabage collection redesign

Blog_Garabage_collection_redesign.jpg

Garbage collection is an essential service provided by municipal
government that, in many communities, has become ingrained in the weekly
routine of community residents. While collecting garbage seems like a
straight forward process, often there are weeks or months of planning
that are necessary to determine pickup locations for a given route that
are efficient in both time and resources. Recently, the Village of
Winnetka Public Works department decided to reallocate their garbage
collection pickup locations to help maximize the efficiency of each
truck driver’s route. To assist with this, the Village GIS department
provided support during both the planning and implementation stages of
the project.

The first step in developing new garbage collection zones was to
determine how the current pickup locations related to each other
spatially within the Village. Prior to integrating GIS into this
project, the Village used a series of address lists to determine the
truck driver’s routes. These lists often had overlapping address ranges,
which could lead to confusion for new or replacement drivers. This also
did not provide an option for the drivers to see how the addresses were
distributed in relation to each other, which could often lead to them
taking an inefficient route to pickup each address. Using these address
lists, the GIS department mapped out each collection area and provided a
map to the Public Works department for review. The map showed the
department how the driver’s routes were distributed across the Village,
which allowed them to notice several inefficiencies that were not
obvious using the address lists alone. Utilizing the maps, the
department was able to successfully reallocate the pickup locations
within the collection areas to improve both driver time and resource
efficiency.

To help implement the new routes, the GIS department developed a
series of smaller maps that are used in the garbage trucks to assist the
driver’s in learning the new pickup locations. The maps not only help
the drivers to see where new pickup locations are in each collection
area, but they also allow for the drivers to see the street layout
within the collection area to help determine the best possible pickup
route. By combining the reallocated collection locations determined by
the department office staff with the ability to see the Village streets
in the surrounding area, the maps provide a powerful tool for drivers to
use in determining the best collection route.

By using GIS as a tool for visualizing its garbage pickup locations,
the Village has been able to improve the efficiency of the driver’s
routes while not reducing the level of service provided to its
residents. While the address lists used previously can still be
referenced for individual pickup locations, the maps act as a
supplemental, quick reference tool to see how these locations are
distributed spatially across the Village.

Garabage collection redesign

Blog_Garabage_collection_redesign.jpg

Garbage collection is an essential service provided by municipal
government that, in many communities, has become ingrained in the weekly
routine of community residents. While collecting garbage seems like a
straight forward process, often there are weeks or months of planning
that are necessary to determine pickup locations for a given route that
are efficient in both time and resources. Recently, the Village of
Winnetka Public Works department decided to reallocate their garbage
collection pickup locations to help maximize the efficiency of each
truck driver’s route. To assist with this, the Village GIS department
provided support during both the planning and implementation stages of
the project.

The first step in developing new garbage collection zones was to
determine how the current pickup locations related to each other
spatially within the Village. Prior to integrating GIS into this
project, the Village used a series of address lists to determine the
truck driver’s routes. These lists often had overlapping address ranges,
which could lead to confusion for new or replacement drivers. This also
did not provide an option for the drivers to see how the addresses were
distributed in relation to each other, which could often lead to them
taking an inefficient route to pickup each address. Using these address
lists, the GIS department mapped out each collection area and provided a
map to the Public Works department for review. The map showed the
department how the driver’s routes were distributed across the Village,
which allowed them to notice several inefficiencies that were not
obvious using the address lists alone. Utilizing the maps, the
department was able to successfully reallocate the pickup locations
within the collection areas to improve both driver time and resource
efficiency.

To help implement the new routes, the GIS department developed a
series of smaller maps that are used in the garbage trucks to assist the
driver’s in learning the new pickup locations. The maps not only help
the drivers to see where new pickup locations are in each collection
area, but they also allow for the drivers to see the street layout
within the collection area to help determine the best possible pickup
route. By combining the reallocated collection locations determined by
the department office staff with the ability to see the Village streets
in the surrounding area, the maps provide a powerful tool for drivers to
use in determining the best collection route.

By using GIS as a tool for visualizing its garbage pickup locations,
the Village has been able to improve the efficiency of the driver’s
routes while not reducing the level of service provided to its
residents. While the address lists used previously can still be
referenced for individual pickup locations, the maps act as a
supplemental, quick reference tool to see how these locations are
distributed spatially across the Village.

Supporting holiday lighting

​During the winter holiday seasons, local municipalities often will
setup a series of decorations or lighting displays to celebrate the
holidays and provide a fun attraction for the community’s residents.
While the amount of decorations on display is mainly regulated by a
community’ budget, some times these restrictions can come from a lack of
existing space or resources for displaying or powering a certain
decoration setup. For the Village of Winnetka, this was the case for a
business district area located at the northern end of the Village. While
many of the businesses and residents in this area wanted to have more
lights displayed in the areas numerous trees, there were not sufficient
power sources available to accommodate this request. To determine the
best solution for this problem, the Public Works and Water and Electric
departments used GIS to assist with the planning and mapping of numerous
proposed scenarios.

Before any solutions to this issue could be considered, the tree
locations and existing lighting setup of the project area needed to the
inputted into the Village’s GIS system. This information was provided to
the GIS department by the Public Work’s Forestry division, which is
responsible for ordering, installing, and maintaining the lights before
and during the holiday season. Once this data was inputted, an initial
map of the lighting arrangement was produced to allow the departments to
review the existing lighting and determine potential locations for
additional lights. From this preliminary map, three light display
scenarios were developed by the Water and Electric department based on
plausible sites for expanding the electric utilities in the area to
provide the necessary power.

Once a final lighting arrangement was decided on by both departments,
the expansion of the electric system and the additional lighting funds
needed to be discussed and agreed upon by the Village Council. To assist
with this, the GIS department developed two maps, one showing the
proposed electric system additions and the other showing the proposed
tree lightings overlaid with the existing tree lighting. By using a
spatial tool to show, visually, the proposed plan for the holiday
lighting in the project area, the Water and Electric and Public Works
departments were able to provide a comprehensive view of the changes to
the council, as well as other departments and agencies involved in the
project. As a result, the proposed lighting arrangement was approved and
is currently being implemented for the current year’s holiday season
and into the future.

Prior to GIS being used to assist with the Village of Winnetka
holiday lighting expansion proposal, the project information was stored
in a series of excel spreadsheets and other document formats and was not
organized across the involved Village departments. With the necessary
project data now developed in a spatial framework, the Village has a
comprehensive and organized inventory of both the past and future
holiday lighting plans to assist with any future expansions or existing
project alterations.

Supporting holiday lighting

​During the winter holiday seasons, local municipalities often will
setup a series of decorations or lighting displays to celebrate the
holidays and provide a fun attraction for the community’s residents.
While the amount of decorations on display is mainly regulated by a
community’ budget, some times these restrictions can come from a lack of
existing space or resources for displaying or powering a certain
decoration setup. For the Village of Winnetka, this was the case for a
business district area located at the northern end of the Village. While
many of the businesses and residents in this area wanted to have more
lights displayed in the areas numerous trees, there were not sufficient
power sources available to accommodate this request. To determine the
best solution for this problem, the Public Works and Water and Electric
departments used GIS to assist with the planning and mapping of numerous
proposed scenarios.

Before any solutions to this issue could be considered, the tree
locations and existing lighting setup of the project area needed to the
inputted into the Village’s GIS system. This information was provided to
the GIS department by the Public Work’s Forestry division, which is
responsible for ordering, installing, and maintaining the lights before
and during the holiday season. Once this data was inputted, an initial
map of the lighting arrangement was produced to allow the departments to
review the existing lighting and determine potential locations for
additional lights. From this preliminary map, three light display
scenarios were developed by the Water and Electric department based on
plausible sites for expanding the electric utilities in the area to
provide the necessary power.

Once a final lighting arrangement was decided on by both departments,
the expansion of the electric system and the additional lighting funds
needed to be discussed and agreed upon by the Village Council. To assist
with this, the GIS department developed two maps, one showing the
proposed electric system additions and the other showing the proposed
tree lightings overlaid with the existing tree lighting. By using a
spatial tool to show, visually, the proposed plan for the holiday
lighting in the project area, the Water and Electric and Public Works
departments were able to provide a comprehensive view of the changes to
the council, as well as other departments and agencies involved in the
project. As a result, the proposed lighting arrangement was approved and
is currently being implemented for the current year’s holiday season
and into the future.

Prior to GIS being used to assist with the Village of Winnetka
holiday lighting expansion proposal, the project information was stored
in a series of excel spreadsheets and other document formats and was not
organized across the involved Village departments. With the necessary
project data now developed in a spatial framework, the Village has a
comprehensive and organized inventory of both the past and future
holiday lighting plans to assist with any future expansions or existing
project alterations.

Using GIS for electrical system maintenance

​Utility mapping is a critical function of any municipal GIS system to
help support the daily workflows of various departments, including
Public Works and Engineering. While most communities are only
responsible for maintaining water and sewer utility systems, the Village
of Winnetka includes an electric system as a component of their
standard utility maintenance. By maintaining this complex system in
GIS, the department has helped to streamline their electric system
inventory and improve the efficiency of both the field crews and the
office staff in locating system components.

The first step in developing the village electric system in GIS was
to gather the source data that would be used to build the electric
network. These sources included paper CAD maps, excel spreadsheets,
and even paper note cards containing various pieces of information
related to system features. The primary source for getting the basic
geometry of the system created in GIS was the paper CAD maps. While
these maps primarily display interpretative drawings of the actual
locations of electric wires and system components, they provided the
basic foundation for the development of the GIS data. These maps also
provided basic attributes for each feature, including circuit, phase,
and voltage information, among others.

Another valuable source of information used to create the GIS
electric system was the staff of the Winnetka Water and Electric
department. Often the CAD maps and other data sources were out of date
or incorrect based on a variety of factors and needed to be supplemented
with “on-the-ground” knowledge of the system in the field. The
information obtained from the department staff helped to fill in any
gaps left by the paper and electronic sources and to refine the coarse
accuracy of the CAD drawings to make the GIS data more spatially
accurate. Without this additional knowledge, the initial development of
the GIS electric data would have been much more difficult and resulted
in a less reliable product.

While creating the electric system data in GIS proved to be a
challenging component of the overall project, the most difficult aspect
was getting the CAD-centric field and office staff of the department to
accept using a new system to view their electric information. While
the staff was happy to supply their expertise to the development of the
data, they were accustom to using the old data formats and were
reluctant to accept the new GIS data as their primary mapping tool.
However, over time, the improved accuracy and reliability of the GIS
data has helped to slowly transition the department to using GIS
products. While the CAD maps and other data sources have not been
completely abandoned as a source of information, the department has
started to accept the use of GIS as an efficient solution for mapping
the Village’s complex electric system and maintaining its numerous
system attributes.

Using GIS for electrical system maintenance

​Utility mapping is a critical function of any municipal GIS system to
help support the daily workflows of various departments, including
Public Works and Engineering. While most communities are only
responsible for maintaining water and sewer utility systems, the Village
of Winnetka includes an electric system as a component of their
standard utility maintenance. By maintaining this complex system in
GIS, the department has helped to streamline their electric system
inventory and improve the efficiency of both the field crews and the
office staff in locating system components.

The first step in developing the village electric system in GIS was
to gather the source data that would be used to build the electric
network. These sources included paper CAD maps, excel spreadsheets,
and even paper note cards containing various pieces of information
related to system features. The primary source for getting the basic
geometry of the system created in GIS was the paper CAD maps. While
these maps primarily display interpretative drawings of the actual
locations of electric wires and system components, they provided the
basic foundation for the development of the GIS data. These maps also
provided basic attributes for each feature, including circuit, phase,
and voltage information, among others.

Another valuable source of information used to create the GIS
electric system was the staff of the Winnetka Water and Electric
department. Often the CAD maps and other data sources were out of date
or incorrect based on a variety of factors and needed to be supplemented
with “on-the-ground” knowledge of the system in the field. The
information obtained from the department staff helped to fill in any
gaps left by the paper and electronic sources and to refine the coarse
accuracy of the CAD drawings to make the GIS data more spatially
accurate. Without this additional knowledge, the initial development of
the GIS electric data would have been much more difficult and resulted
in a less reliable product.

While creating the electric system data in GIS proved to be a
challenging component of the overall project, the most difficult aspect
was getting the CAD-centric field and office staff of the department to
accept using a new system to view their electric information. While
the staff was happy to supply their expertise to the development of the
data, they were accustom to using the old data formats and were
reluctant to accept the new GIS data as their primary mapping tool.
However, over time, the improved accuracy and reliability of the GIS
data has helped to slowly transition the department to using GIS
products. While the CAD maps and other data sources have not been
completely abandoned as a source of information, the department has
started to accept the use of GIS as an efficient solution for mapping
the Village’s complex electric system and maintaining its numerous
system attributes.

Public safety response

​Of all the services provided by local municipalities around the
world, public safety is arguably the most recognizable and widely
supported. Everyone wants to feel that they are safe and that someone
will respond to assist them in the case of an emergency. The Village of
Winnetka traditionally has provided fire, EMS, and police protection to
its residences since it was established, however, over the years, these
Village departments have started to provide service to additional areas
immediately outside the village boundaries through a series of public
service contracts. To assist with coordinating response efforts in these
service agreement areas, the fire and police departments asked the
village GIS department for assistance.

While several of these contracts are for police services in
unincorporated areas south of the village limits, the fire department
has the added responsibility of providing service to the Village of
Kenilworth, a small municipality located southeast of Winnetka. For
years, this area has either not been mapped or has been poorly mapped,
making it difficult to plan efficient response routes. To help resolve
these issues, the GIS department created several data layers for
Kenilworth that allow for more effective response mapping.

Since the Village of Kenilworth is not part of the GIS Consortium,
much of the base data for this area was provided by Cook County,
including roads, parcels, and an initial street address range line. The
other information used to develop this data, such as individual
addresses and street names, was provided by a combination of the
Winnetka fire and police departments. Using these two sources, a
Kenilworth street name table and an initial address database were
developed. While these two data layers do not complete the Kenilworth
dataset, they allow for additional information to be developed in the
Village database, such as a more accurate street address range feature
class.

While this service area data is being developed to assist the overall
public safety efforts of the Village of Winnetka, ultimately, the
police and fire department will use it to accomplish different goals.
For the police department, since they provide response assistance to
Kenilworth and, often, travel through the village when responding to
calls in other communities, the street address range data will be
inputted into an existing CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) system to
provide responding officers with both village address ranges and
information on how the streets are aligned to help improve response
times. For the fire department, since they are the primary response
agency for Kenilworth, the individual resident and commercial property
addresses are critical for pinpointing the exact location of an
emergency call. A detailed map of Kenilworth, including streets, parcel
lines, and individual addresses, will be created to provide the
department with accurate property information prior to going out on a
call.

For both departments, the data developed by the GIS system will help
to improve their ability to respond more efficiently and with more
certainty regarding the location of an emergency call. This leads to
better public safety services for the Village of Kenilworth and a more
reliable system for the Village of Winnetka in responding to an
emergency event.