Category: Public Safety

2010 Homeland Security Summit Call for Papers

Make sure to submit your papers for the 2010 Homeland Security Summit. The deadline is November 13th. We’re interested in learning from you and sharing your hard work and experiences with the homeland security community. To submit papers, please visit the below link

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Demographic Thematic Map Layers Now Available!


Demographics are a key piece of information to understanding vulnerability and risk for mitigation purposes.  There are now 12 new demographic thematic map layers available on ArcGIS Online offered at no charge to the ArcGIS Online user community.  In many cases these layers are based on current year demographics.  These map layers can be leveraged both on the web and on the desktop.

You can access the layers here –  The demographic variables include:

  1. USA 1990-2000 Population Change
  2. USA Average Household Size
  3. USA Daytime Population
  4. USA Diversity Index
  5. USA Labor Force Participation Rate
  6. USA Median Age
  7. USA Median Home Value
  8. USA Median Household Income
  9. USA Population Density
  10. USA Projected Population Change
  11. USA Recent Population Change
  12. USA Unemployment Rate

You can interact with these layers in an application here –

If you want to add this to your Emergency Management Common Operational Picture Template or Sample Flex Viewer simply add a new mapservice element within the livemaps section of the config.xml such as:

<mapservice label=”US Daytime Population” type=”dynamic” visible=”true” alpha=”0.75″></mapservice>


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Post ESRI Homeland Security GIS Summit and International User Conference Information

Well another ESRI International User Conference and Homeland Security GIS Summit have come and gone.  Thanks to everyone who attended the Summit and/or public safety activities at the User Conference.  It was great to see you and meet with you and learn from your experience.  For those of you that joined us (and for those who couldn’t) the materials from the Homeland Security GIS Summit and User Conference are now online.  Here are some of the highlights.

2009 ESRI Homeland Security GIS Summit:

2009 International ESRI User Conference:

Also, special thanks to everyone that attended our technical workshop focused on the Public Safety Resource Center entitled Emergency Management Applications using ArcGIS.  It was a pretty full room and we got a lot of great feedback from you on the templates and good suggestions for directions moving forward.  Some of the suggestions and comments include:

  • A special events template
  • More focus on industry data standards
  • Templates that help smaller units

Thanks for attending and we look forward to seeing you next year in San Diego!  Mark your calendar for next year’s events:

                ESRI International User Conference        July 12-16, 2010

                ESRI Homeland Security GIS Summit    July 10-13, 2010

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ESRI Homeland Security Summit and UC Public Safety Events and Activities

ESRI Homeland Security Summit – July 11-14, 2009

ESRI International User Conference – July 13-17, 2009

This coming weekend kicks off the merge of 2 very important ESRI Conferences.  Saturday the 11th, the ESRI Homeland Security Summit, the only geospatial conference dedicated to homeland security, starts off with an afternoon plenary session focusing on the latest advancements GIS has made in the industry and keynotes by Cindi Salas, CenterPoint Energy and Dr. David Boyd, Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate Command.  On Sunday, the conference convenes back together for panel sessions on intelligence analysis and data fusion.  Industry leaders will share their solutions and experiences and will be ready for questions.  Sunday wraps up with three breakout tracks on Data Fusion, Critical Infrastructure, and Situational Awareness.  This conference is a must attend for the public safety community.   Additional details on the Homeland Security Summit can be found at:

On Monday, July 13, 2009, ESRI customers across the globe are invited to attend the world’s largest gathering of GIS professionals.  Our world in Public Safety is being challenged by rapid change. You’ll see how to meet these challenges head-on at the 2009 ESRI International User Conference (ESRI UC). The weeklong geographic information system (GIS) conference offers sessions, exhibits, and technical information for public safety professionals.

Some conference highlights, not to be missed, include:

Sessions: The moderated paper sessions run throughout the day on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – A couple sessions I would recommend to include on your agenda are:

 ”Emergency Management Applications using ArcGIS” in Room 17B on Wednesday at 1:30.  Come prepared with your feedback on the Public Safety Resource Center web site. 

Implementing FusionX CORE within a Homeland Security Data Fusion Center“, in Room 17A on Tuesday at 8:30am. Learn from ESRI and Microsoft staff how you can quickly stand up a geospatial based collaboration system for a fusion center that supports intake, analysis, and dissemination.

Threat Assessment and Critical Infrastructure Protection“, first offered in Room 17A on Tuesday at 3:15pm.

For more details on the sessions focused on public safety and homeland security please see the linked flier.

Exhibits: don’t miss our business partner solutions and the ESRI Public Safety Showcase for ESRI solution demonstrations and demo theatre that runs short demonstrations all day.

Special Interest Group Meetings:

            GIS in Homeland Security SIG – Room 17A on Tuesday

            GIS in Emergency Management SIG – Room 17A on Wednesday

            GIS in Law Enforcement – Room 17B on Thursday

We look forward to seeing you at the upcoming Homeland Security Summit and ESRI International User Conference.  Please comment on the blog post to let us know what you think and if there are any specific sessions that you recommend.  We will post a conference after action report following the conferences.  If you can’t make it – stay tuned.

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Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s COP Application – VIPER

Achieving operational and situational awareness in any EOC environment can be a challenge. Given the threat of natural and manmade disasters that can impact the continuity of a civil society and the normal operations government; workflows, procedures, and an operation picture of the event, is paramount to addressing the ever increasing challenges faced by emergency managers and first responders. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) had faced similar tests within their EOC, and were determined to develop a system that provide situational awareness in a timely and relevant manner to decision makers across the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Virginia Interoperability Picture for Emergency Response, or more commonly known as VIPER, was the answer that VDEM was looking for to fulfill its mission to the residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia. VIPER was developed utilizing ESRI’s Sample Flex Viewer which is powered by ArcGIS Server


VIPER had an opportunity prove its mettle in several high profile natural disaster and national security events. The most notable ones being Tropical Storm Hannah, the Presidential Election, and the Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, President Barack Obama. In each instance, VIPER was integral to providing geospatial intelligence and situational awareness to allied agencies supporting these events. VIPER gave non-GIS staff the opportunity to visualize, analyze, and query relevant information in a common operational picture. Watch officials, emergency managers, first responders, and citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Nation, have all benefited from the pioneering and innovative development of this system. To learn more about VIPER visit - or watch the video posted on the Public Safety Resource Center and the ESRI TV Channel on YouTube.


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New Article in Fire Chief Magazine Highlights Enterprise GIS at Orange County Fire

Check out the May Issue of Fire Chief Magazine featuring Orange County Fire Authority’s use of GIS. Here’s an enterprise platform in place today that’s making a difference in all phases of fire service.

Story Brief

Orange County Uses GIS to Coordinate Multiagency Response | Central Nervous System – FIRE CHIEF Article

May 01, 2009, Fire Chief, By Jesse Theodore

The Orange County Fire Authority uses computer mapping to coordinate the activities of all parts of its organization. Using a spatially enabled enterprise consisting of fully integrated Web, server, desktop and mobile solutions, OCFA supplies an integration platform that seamlessly fuses data, applications, processes and previously isolated departments into a synergistic whole.

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Emergency Response Guide Geoprocessing tools for ArcGIS

The Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG2008) is used by firefighters, police, and other emergency services personnel who arrive at the scene of a transportation incident involving a hazardous material.  The guidebook was developed jointly by the US Department of Transportation, Transport Canada, and the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation of Mexico (SCT).

When some people see the output of the ERG, the first thought is “It looks just like a circle and a rectangle….why isn’t this a plume?”.  The ERG is actually a widely used standard and is a “keep-out” protocol similar to a plume but requires less rigorous inputs.  It lets first responders determine an area of concern without over complicating a situation that may already be difficult to respond to.  When first responders arrive at an emergency their first two priorities are scene safety to protect responding personnel and saving the lives of victims involved in the incident. For that initial response they need quick results that will help them achieve these goals. The ERG tool is well suited to fit that mission.

More information on the ERG can be found here:
A PDF of the Guidebook can be found here:

The guidebook itself lists hundreds of hazardous chemicals.  For each chemical, recommended safe distances described as “Initial isolation distances” and “Protective action distances” are listed.  The “Initial Isolation Distance” is a distance within which all persons should be considered for evacuation in all directions from the actual spill/leak source.  The “Protective action distances” represent areas in which first responders could evacuate people to preserve safety.

ArcGIS Geoprocessing tools were created to put a spatial context to the ERG workflow process.  The Geoprocessing tools take all input parameters that the ERG requires to calculate the “Initial Isolation Zone” and “Protective Action Zone”.  The output of the geoprocessing tools create a feature class with polygons representing those zones.

The geoprocessing tools were built as custom .Net Geoprocessing tools.  These tools can be executed from ArcMap, or put into a Geoprocessing Model and published via ArcGIS Server to be leveraged in web mapping applications or ArcGIS Explorer.  The tools can be downloaded from the ESRI Resource Center in the Emergency Management COP template or the Geoprocessing Resource Center.
These tools provide a great example of how geoprocessing based upon standards such as the ERG can be incorporated into a custom geoprocessing tool.  Making custom geoprocessing tools allow the tool to be flexible to run in both ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Server applications.  More information on building custom geoprocessing tools can be found here:

The download comes with two toolboxes.  The “ERGTools –Generic Tools” are the core geoprocessing tools.  The inputs allow you to upload a feature class as input.  Most people will use the “ERGModels – Generic Tools” toolbox which allows the user to interactively define a point on the map that represents a hazardous material spill.

There are also two Geoprocessing tools included: “ERG By Chemical” and “ERG By Placard”.  The “ERG By Chemical” lists all chemicals represented in the guidebook as a parameter.  In some cases someone may call in to report an incident, but not know the chemical, but saw the placard on the vehicle that spilled in which case you can run the “ERG By Placard”.

When you open the Geoprocessing tools, you will see all the parameters required.  The first parameter represents the input point.  The next parameter represents the Material or Placard depending on the tool you run.  There are additional parameters for the time and size of the incident that the guidebook defines that will impact the size of the “Initial isolation distances” and “Protective action distances” .  The distances change from daytime to nighttime due to different mixing and dispersion conditions in the air.  Spills that involve releases of approximately 200 liters (300 kg for solids)or less are considered Small Spills, while spills that involve quantities greater than 200 liters (300 kg for solids) are considered Large Spills.

The output feature class contains three polygons with an ERGZone attribute.  Zone 1 represents the Isolation Distance.  Zone 2 Represents the Protective Action zone.  Zone 3 is a combination of Zone 1 and Zone 2 and is used for GIS purposes such as defining road blocks, etc.

The attributes of the output feature class indicate which Zone each polygon represents, as well information about the origin of spill, chemical type, date and Guide Number in the ERG Guidebook.


The install package includes more detailed information about installing and using the ERG tool.  The ERG Geoprocessing tools are supported on ArcGIS 9.3 or higher. 

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Introducing the Content Part 2: The Common Operational Picture Application


Obtaining and maintaining Situational Awareness is challenging for any organization.  The framework provided here, in this Common Operational Picture Template, helps you overcome that challenge.   Using this Web 2.0 style viewer you can configure feeds of information from various GIS sources and business systems.  It’s really powerful because it leverages a lot of other things that you do to help you maintain Situational Awareness, such as data management, planning & analysis, and field operations.

The Emergency Management Common Operational Picture Template is built with ArcGIS API for FlexTM using the Sample Flex Viewer.  This application framework will be familiar to you if you’ve visited the Flex Resource Center, downloaded the Water Dashboard, attended one of the Effective Web Map Seminars or remember the Situational Awareness demo from the ESRI 2008 User Conference Plenary.  The template provides an example of the Sample Flex Viewer targeted for Emergency Management based on a train derailment scenario at the local government level.  We encourage you to watch the video to get a sense of what’s provided in addition to downloading the template.

One of the key tools in this template is the Emergency Response Guide (ERG) delivered as a Geoprocessing tool.


This allows a general users of this site to leverage the power of GIS and be able to quickly provide answers to questions decisions makers will be asking such as “who’s affected?” and “what’s affected?”

The ERG tool helps you quickly characterize the impact of a chemical spill.  As the incident progresses your hazard modeler may run a more refined plume like ALOHA.  This is the plume that is on by default in the viewer.  We’ve taken the output from ALOHA and put the data in the geodatabase with the help of a tool from NOAA.

We’ll get in to more depth in discussing how we created the Emergency Response Guide Geoprocessing tool and integrating data from ALOHA in future blog posts.

Additionally, there is an example of exposing data, such as Incidents, through the Live Layer Widget.  Information such as Incidents, Shelters, Road Blocks, etc. are coming from data managed in the Geodatabase.  In more advanced configurations of the viewer, this data could be coming from a Crisis Information Management System provided by one of our Business Partners. ( )

The framework is very rich and something you can build on.  You can add ArcGIS Server Services from many different sources by simply adding an entry in the config.xml file.  You can connect to GeoRSS feeds of data such as the Earthquakes from the USGS by adding the GeoRSS widget.  Widgets from other users can be downloaded from the Flex API Code Gallery and configured with this viewer.

Also note that the Public Safety Basemap is the basemap that is on by default.  It has been cached at a larger scale than what is currently available with ArcGIS Online – it goes down to a scale of 1:600 to leverage the rich data available at the local government level.  ArcGIS Online Streets and Imagery are also available and can be turned on my simply clicking on them in the Basemaps menu.

In addition, we’ve recently added a live version of the application – simply click here to see the viewer in action!

We’re excited to bring this template to you and interested in hearing your feedback on how we can make this even better.  Feel free to leave a comment below or e-mail us at


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Introduction to the Templates Part 1: Building a Strong Foundation with the Data Models


The Emergency Management Templates provide a sample Geodatabase in each of the application downloads (COP, Mobile, Standard Maps). There is a fourth template for those of you looking to build your own GIS Server and Geodatabase for Emergency Management. This blog entry provides details about the structure of those Template Data Models and how you can use them in your project.

If you are new to GIS you will probably be surprised at the level of enthusiasm and interest in data models in the GIS user community. There are a few key reasons for this interest:

  1. Data is the biggest investment in GIS for most organizations. The data model directly affects the cost and duration of their projects.
  2. GIS databases always have to support many applications and many types of maps and reports. It is hard to anticipate all of the data requirements from a typical set of application requirements, so most organizations are driven to look for best practices for database design to make sure their system provides a foundation for future applications.
  3. Designing and building GIS databases is a relatively new profession and the tools, methods, and design patterns are still emerging.

The purpose of the Emergency Management Template data model is to provide a good design for a Local Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Louisville, KY. Yes, it can be used in other jurisdictions and for other purposes, but the style of data model and the similarity to the existing data provided by LOJIC, the Local Government GIS organization in Louisville, but there are a number of design decisions made specific to Louisville and the scope of the model is to support some specific applications for an EOC.

So on the one hand, the EMTemplate.mdb can be used as a ready-to-use Geodatabase design, but like we did in building the Louisville example, you will need to go through a process of selecting the right content for your applications and available local data to build your system. Some people think that it would be better for ESRI to provide a universal data model that can handle every situation and produce any kind of map, but we didn’t take that approach because solutions with a scope like that rarely work at a practical level. We want to help you to get to the point of deciding which attributes you need on the FireStation feature class, how your maps should look at 1:10,000 scale, and how you are going to manage a street centerline dataset that works for mapping and for dispatch. We won’t solve all of those problems with EMTemplate.mdb, but at an implementation level this example should help you to get there.

For an introduction to the content of the Template, watch the video.

From the video you should have an initial understanding of the content of the data model templates and you might have some ideas about how to use data you already have. Again, there are 3 main parts to the template geodatabase:

  • Basemap – Local Government GIS data and other feature classes to support a Public Safety Basemap.
  • Public Safety – Data that can be managed by local government and/or Public Safety groups. These datasets include emergency locations such as shelters, events, resources, along with more detailed information for facilities such as police stations and fire stations.
  • Emergency Operations – Data for incidents and related dynamic information.

Note there is a 4th category called LiveFeeds that has its own template to collect information from various sources and formats to create simple feature classes.

Some people may wonder why we are organizing the data into these “logical” groups. The reason is that we envision different workgroups/organizations will manage this information at different times and that the permissions on each of the datasets in those feature datasets will be the same. In general, it is a recommended practice for Geodatabases to put data with the same permissions into feature datasets and grant privileges for all data at the feature dataset level.

You will also notice the DOT_ tables and the Hillshade raster dataset in the screenshot here. The DOT Hazmat tables are part of Emergency Operations, and the Hillshade is used in the Basemap. The reason they are not in the feature datasets is that you cannot put tables and raster datasets into feature datasets in a Geodatabase.

We would like to once again thank the Local Government GIS organization in Louisville, KY for allowing us to include a sample of their data in the templates. You should be aware that we took a copy of the data at a point in time (1999) and built additional content on top of those datasets. As a result, the data in the templates has been significantly altered from the original database and also does not reflect real conditions. That will be obvious, but we want to clarify that for people who are just getting started.


The Basemap feature dataset contains a number of feature classes like Airports, Parcels, County Boundaries, Streets, and other datasets that are typically managed by local government GIS groups and their partners. The style of data model in the template is basically a copy of the LOJIC data model with some changes in field names, descriptions, and other content.

You can also see the key information (mentioned in the video) for FacilitySite and FacilitySitePoint. In general, you would expect that each site polygon (i.e., the Louisville Airport) would have one or more SitePoints that represent the front door and other key locations and businesses at the Site. In the Louisville example we only have a small set of the polygons and many more SitePoints.

The FacilitySite polygons include data from the LOJIC Areas of Interest feature class. If we had more time we would have added more of these polygons to the database – there are many more Sites in the real world than we have as polygons in the database. We did not add MetroParks into the polygon database but would do that if we were starting over.

We also added HazMat locations into the FacilitySitePoint feature class along with a number of other point locations. In hindsight we might have been better off making a separate HazMat feature class to house that information and include HazMat type and quantity information, although just having the location plus point of contact information is probably about right for a basemap. You will notice that a number of the SitePoints were geocoded/located using address information and should be placed more accurately on the Sites. You will also notice places with many points stacked on top of each other because they have the same address. We just didn’t have time to fix this in the data.

Beyond some of those details, this approach – having these 2 simple feature classes for these types of features – is a big shift in thinking for many local government GIS shops.  We are really interested in your feedback and ideas on this topic. We see many opportunities with this approach – maps, searches, performance, symbology all work better than having the information scattered across many feature classes.

Public Safety

The Public Safety feature dataset contains a number of feature classes that are of interest to Public Safety organizations. In many cases the Fire and/or Police departments maintain some or all of this data, but in other cases the local government GIS organization manages this information. There is no strong recommendation either way; it really depends on the GIS capability and priorities in these organizations.
This data is relatively static and is not large in size compared to the Basemap datasets. One key part of this data spans both planning and operations activities – the EmergencyFacility feature class.

The EmergencyFacility domain provides a better look at the kinds of features in this dataset:


This feature dataset contains data that is specific to incidents and emergency management activities. The information is dynamic and evolves quickly. Most of the content here should be easy to understand – especially after you try the COP template and/or watch the video.

One part that is not described anywhere else is the inclusion of DOT HazMat reporting content:

These tables are based on DOT reporting requirements and provide a place to store information on PHMSA incident reporting forms 171.15 and 171.16 as described at: While you may not be required to report using these forms, it should at least provide you an example of how to build geodatabase content to support these kinds of requirements. 


We are interested in your feedback on this topic – especially comments on what we can do to make it easier for you to build your own system. Contact us anytime at

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The 2009 Homeland Security GIS Summit Approaches

  • Registration Deadline Extended to June 19
  • Homeland Security Summit Facebook Page Now Online!

The 2009 ESRI Homeland Security GIS Summit promises to be better than ever. This year’s theme–The Geographic Approach: A Framework for Mission-Critical Decision Making, encapsulates all of the important work public safety professionals do using GIS. The Summit provides a unique opportunity to learn how to meet the mission and address today’s challenges in homeland security.

There’s still time to sign up to attend the ESRI Homeland Security GIS Summit. The registration deadline has been extended to June 19. This year’s Summit is held July 11–14, 2009, at the Marriott Hotel & Marina in San Diego, California.
And now you can make connections BEFORE you get to the Summit or even if you can’t make it to San Diego!
ESRI has rolled out the ESRI Homeland Security GIS Summit Facebook page! Log on and use this social networking tool to communicate, collaborate, and exchange ideas. This forum is built specifically for people to reach out to one another in a quick and easy fashion. We’ll also post Summit updates, pictures, and discussion threads.

Learn more by checking out the official ESRI Homeland Security GIS Summit web page at:

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