By Jeff Dulin, Assistant Director, IAFC Research Center
The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) is an international nonprofit 501(c)(3) association representing the leaders of the nation's fire, rescue, and emergency medical services. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for fire and emergency service leaders to exchange ideas, develop professionally, and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders.
The IAFC has developed a partnership with Esri, a global market leader in geographic information system (GIS) technology, to create the National Public Safety GIS Platform. This online site is for data and situational awareness sharing. The IAFC realized that not all fire and emergency service providers had access to quality GIS tools or data. Through the partnership with Esri, the IAFC is building an online portal for those agencies to collect, share, and then view their data. In addition, the data will become part of national datasets to be used for regional and national responses.
Phase one of this three-phase project was the development of the National GIS Viewer to display relevant datasets that support planning, preparation, response, and recovery efforts. This viewer is also being used to support the ongoing development of datasets. Through the IAFC's online portal, the viewer serves as an open site where users can view the data and make situational awareness decisions. The IAFC is committed to offering this capability and makes it available, without charge, to anyone who registers for an account.
Phase two will be the updating and development of datasets that are of local or national importance. The IAFC was awarded the stewardship of the Fire Department Homeland Infrastructure Foundation-Level Data (HIFLD) by the Department of Homeland Security. This dataset is the baseline data for all fire departments and fire stations in the nation. Beginning spring 2017, the IAFC will begin an outreach to update and verify this data and provide a mechanism to maintain the most current data. Through an Esri application, fire department officials will be able to update their data and thus provide the most current information available to all who use the HIFLD sets.
A second part of phase two will involve the collection of local datasets by individual fire and emergency services agencies. The IAFC, in partnership with Esri, has secured a large number of Esri named user licenses to loan out to fire departments on a temporary basis. This will allow them to collect data valuable to national-level datasets. Along with information gathered through existing GIS layers, this collection will support the development of the first national datasets of emergency response data viewable in one location.
Phase three will be the development of an updated Fire Mutual Aid System. In 2008, in response to Hurricane Katrina, the IAFC developed the system that allowed them to move fire resources intrastate as well as interstate. The current project is to update the system to a more robust and geoenabled system using Esri's suite of tools. In partnership with the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS Foundation, work is under way to develop a new system that will enable not only the identification of appropriate resources but also provide mechanisms for assignment, routing, and tracking of resources and information sharing through mobile-enabled apps. The system will be developed to support existing state and national response plans and provide the latest capabilities available.
This partnership is a crucial milestone for the IAFC in its mission to lead, educate, and serve. The IAFC has taken an aggressive approach to provide the latest and most technologically advanced solutions available to our members. This partnership with Esri will help advance public safety agencies into the next generation of service. For the staff at the IAFC, working on this project with Esri is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling projects they have undertaken.