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by Mike Cox, Esri Fire and EMS Industry Manager and Jeff Baranyi, Esri Public Safety Assistance Program Operations Manager


We realize that public safety agencies face challenges that are more complex and unpredictable than ever before. These events involve social unrest, public health issues, and severe weather events that create an environment where missions and priorities change daily. The approaches that organizations have relied on for years are no longer as effective to secure our communities.


Modern challenges require a modern approach. Agencies and organizations need tools and operational capabilities to adapt to volatile conditions and support a variety of mission requirements. Today, we must be able to identify threats, collaborate and unify operations, rapidly respond to events, communicate with the public, and analyze the success of those efforts. Through the power of geospatial technology, organizations can now adopt a smarter, more integrative approach to safety and security. With the right technology, data, people, and processes, every community can become a safe community.


The challenges for public safety agencies are complex, and they continue to evolve each day. There are more demands on agencies—from adapting to an aging population to the increasing severity and frequency of events that we must respond to and the fact that the role of public safety is changing as we strive to keep our communities livable. The health of a community depends on the effective operation of its public safety agencies, and GIS can improve that effectiveness.

One concept for addressing these emerging issues efficiently is the establishment of a comprehensive community risk reduction (CRR) program. CRR coordinates emergency operations with the goal of preventing and mitigating the effects of an event across the community and at the fire station level. Involvement of frontline personnel is critical for field data collection. GIS can provide solutions to lessen the impact of the day-to-day activities of the frontline personnel.

The benefits of a comprehensive CRR program include bettering the health of the community and improving firefighter safety, which can impact the accreditation process. An effective CRR program allows us to identify new and emerging hazards and provide data to influence the budgetary process, track the changing demographics of our community, and identify under-served populations.


CRR is not limited to fire prevention. This program can be applied to any risk you identify. Consider the risk assessment for fires occurring in single-family dwellings. Might a similar assessment, including demographic and CAD data, be applied to fall prevention or any health problem for which data is available? The CRR process allows us to focus our efforts on the population in need efficiently.


Fire and emergency medical services exist not only to respond to emergency incidents but also to proactively prevent or mitigate the impact of such incidents within their communities. CRR provides a more focused approach to reducing specific risks. In addition, a comprehensive CRR program involving community partners, responders, and other staff can result in an organizational culture that recognizes the importance of reducing risks within a community.


This is the CRR planning cycle provided by Vision 20/20. Like many of our planning activities, it continually assesses the community, prioritizes risk, implements risk reduction activities, and evaluates those activities. This process may influence an agency's accreditation process. The CRR process provides a focused approach to reducing specific risks.




The process begins with identifying the risk. Risks can be man-made or naturally occurring. These can include preventable injuries, controllable health risks (e.g., obesity, diabetes) mass casualty incidents (e.g., active shooter), major hazmat releases, and terrorism as well as severe weather, flooding, hurricanes, and earthquakes.


Risk assessment allows public safety agencies to prioritize those risks. This initial step in preparedness allows for mitigation efforts, planning, and the ability make data-driven decisions to properly deploy resources. This is accomplished by gathering information about what is occurring within your community. The data will be used to identify both current risks and trends based on historical information. Typically, there will be many resources from which to acquire the data that's necessary to identify current and potential risks.


The following data is available for analysis:

  • Fire Department Incident Data
  • Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) Data
  • Emergency Management Disaster-Related Data
  • Public Health Data


GIS provides the ability to present this data in a visual perspective that easily communicates the risk within a community. It also allows public safety officials to analyze multiple datasets to determine how these risks will impact citizens, infrastructure, and the environment.


How would you prefer to assess risk? How should we view and analyze our data? Here is some National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) data:



What does this view tell us? It lists the fires that occurred, the incurred property loss, and the incident type. Or is the following visual perspective better? It provides a better way to easily assess and communicate the risk within specific areas of a community.



This map contains the same data and provides a visual reference to the fire by incident type, occupancy type, and location. Here we can easily identify areas of our community that have concentrated risk or risks of a certain type.


When evaluating fire department incident data, it will be necessary to identify those factors contributing to the severity of the hazards and those populations at greatest risk. We accomplish this by developing a community profile. This profile will include demographic data such as age, gender, income, and other socioeconomic and cultural information. The data from a tax parcel layer can be added to evaluate housing type, age of structures, and density.


You can find demographic information in many places. One excellent source is Esri's Tapestry Segmentation. Tapestry helps you understand your community's lifestyle choices such as what the people in your community buy and how they spend their free time. Tapestry classifies US residential neighborhoods into 67 unique segments based on demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Tapestry can help you gain more insights so you can identify your community members and under-served markets. You can also get higher response rates because you avoid less profitable areas.



Another component of conducting a community risk assessment is to identify specific target hazards within your service area. These are sometimes referred to as critical facilities. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines these as "facilities in either the public or private sector that provide essential products and services to the general public; are otherwise necessary to preserve the welfare and quality of life in the community; or fulfill important public safety, emergency response, and/or disaster recovery functions."


The following map depicts various locations of target hazards based on defined criteria using a scoring system. In this case, properties are color‐coded in accordance with their score, making it easier to quickly identify those with the highest levels of risk. Another option would be to generate a map depicting only those facilities with the highest levels of risk rather than all properties and structures.



Esri has a target hazard assessment tool available. The Target Hazard Analysis tool uses tax parcel data from the assessor's office as input into the analysis. Tax parcel information includes the property boundaries, use description, building area, number of floors, and assessed value. These attributes are used in the analysis to determine the following hazard criteria:

  • Occupancy type
  • Life safety
  • Fire flow requirements
  • Economic impact
  • Building height
  • Building area


In addition, this tax parcel may contain information on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; roof construction; basements; residential elevators; and other datasets that may prove useful.


And if a locality needs specific site data that's not available through tax parcel information, the data can also be collected in the field through the Collector for ArcGIS application on any mobile device and submitted in real time to the evaluation tool. Collecting lock box locations and sprinkler and standpipe connections can be done in a paperless environment, placing the feature on the map in real time.


This assessment is now used to focus efforts on reducing the risk for the population identified. GIS can be used to manage that reduction effort efficiently.



  1. Esri:
  2. Vision 20/20:
  3. American Housing Survey:‐surveys/ahs/
  4. American Community Survey:
  5. Oliver, D. (2011, November). FireRescue Magazine, 42–47
  6. United States Census Bureau:
  7. American FactFinder:

By John Beck, Esri Global Law Enforcement Industry Manager 



In case you missed it, December saw the release of two new law enforcement solutions to help your agency share information with the public and enable community members to create their own crime reports.


As with all our ArcGIS solutions, these are free to download and will help you enhance public awareness about crime and criminal activity in people's neighborhoods, district, or community.

Public Crime Map

The first application creates a public crime map that can be used by citizens to view recent crime activity in and around a given location.



This solution is a configuration of Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS and can be used to search for crime by type, date, or time of incident. This application can help people understand crime patterns in the community, and it provides a proactive way to engage the public in your agency's overall crime reduction strategies.


You can create a public crime map with either ArcMap or ArcGIS Pro and an ArcGIS Online subscription. To deploy the Public Crime Map app using the ArcGIS Solutions Deployment tool, you will need ArcGIS Pro 1.3 or later. This tool will help you install, deploy, configure, and load the data through an easy-to-use, automated series of tasks that require little configuration. If you don't have ArcGIS Pro, you can still deploy the tool from ArcMap manually by configuring and publishing your data to your ArcGIS Online organizational account.


The Public Crime Map app can be deployed in your ArcGIS Online organizational account without even downloading the solution. When you deploy it, you will find the following:






Public Crime Map

An application used by the general public to view recent crime activity in and around a given location


Public Crime Map

A map used in the Public Crime Map application to view recent crime activity in and around a given location

Feature layers


A feature layer that stores actions or omissions that constitute an offense that may be prosecuted by a government agency and is punishable by law


A public feature layer view of actions or omissions that constitute an offense that may be prosecuted by a government agency and is punishable by law


View the Public Crime Map application.

Neighborhood Crime Reports

This configuration of Web AppBuilder can be used by citizens to view historical crime activity and generate reports for a given neighborhood, district, or community, helping law enforcement agencies engage neighborhood groups, satisfy media requests, and help other stakeholders monitor and understand crime problems affecting the community over time.


ArcMap or ArcGIS Pro can be used to configure the Neighborhood Crime Reports feature layer, which can then be shared via your ArcGIS Online organizational account. As with the Public Crime Map application, to use the ArcGIS Solutions Deployment tool with Neighborhood Crime Reports, you will need ArcGIS Pro 1.3 or later.


When you deploy Neighborhood Crime Reports in your ArcGIS Online organizational account, you will get the following:






Neighborhood Crime Reports

An application used by community leaders to view historical crime activity and generate reports for a given neighborhood, district, or community


Neighborhood Crime Reports

A map used in the Neighborhood Crime Reports application to view historical crime activity and generate reports for a given neighborhood, district, or community

Feature layers


A feature layer used to store actions or omissions that constitute an offense that may be prosecuted by a government agency and is punishable by law


A public feature layer view of actions or omissions that constitute an offense that may be prosecuted by a government agency and is punishable by law


A feature layer used to store the administrative and response districts maintained by emergency medical services, fire, and law enforcement agencies


A public feature layer view of administrative and response districts maintained by emergency medical services, fire, and law enforcement agencies


View Neighborhood Crime Reports.

To learn more about these solutions, join us for the next edition of the Esri Law Enforcement Webinar series:

Public Crime Maps and Reports with ArcGIS

February 1, 2018

0900-1000 (PST)

by Mike King, Esri Emergency Call Taking and Dispatch Industry Manager

Hurricane Sandy was the most destructive and deadliest storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, and the third costliest in United States history. Sandy also provided  an object lesson for cities whose first responders and other public safety departments had been increasingly reliant on cellular and internet broadband infrastructure for communications during major events. During that storm, public safety officials lost communication because of an overwhelmed network.

As a result of this failure, public safety organizations began exploring the purchase of a new broadband infrastructure. Only this time its exclusive purpose would be to facilitate communication during catastrophic events like Hurricane Sandy, when multiple agencies are exchanging critical data and communications. After a lengthy scoping and procurement process to allow private companies bidding rights to provide the service, AT&T won a contract to build and manage the new network. Thus was born FirstNet, the first nationwide, public safety broadband infrastructure dedicated to helping law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical services crews save lives and protect communities more effectively.  

Initially FirstNet looked at the existing broadband infrastructure strictly as a challenge of scale. The only geographic concern was the physical location of towers. But, with the emergence of Next Generation 911 technology -- wherein people can transmit text, images and video to emergency responders -- it became increasingly pressing to foster a location-based understanding of emergency response. This way, no matter what data came through the network, emergency responders could understand the geographic context of it. For instance, a picture of a downed power line is useless unless police know where the danger exists and utility crews know where to send field repair technicians. Location intelligence is critical.

How can location intelligence benefit this entirely new network? And more importantly, how do we fortify a physical broadband infrastructure with Next Generation 911 capabilities that also support interoperability?

There are four location intelligence capabilities in particular that will allow FirstNet to be a truly next-generation service for government agencies during emergencies and natural disasters.


1. Situational awareness

Most public safety data contains an element of location. Street cameras, precincts, neighborhood boundaries, hot spots, elevation, land use and demographics all have a location aspect, and all feed into a holistic view of a disaster. Location intelligence provides much needed geographic context. Using geographic information systems to integrate these various data layers together begins to provide decision-makers better situational awareness. Each of these layers gives first responders immediate information and insight into various aspects of the event -- where it is occurring and, most importantly, who it is affecting. Location intelligence allows decision makers to answer critical questions. Who is in an affected area? Where are they located? Are there resources nearby to support the necessary response?  Combining  data from a host of services including government agencies' internal data services, enterprise GIS, demographics and other sensor data feeds opens up a world of possibilities for FirstNet.


2. Portable reporting

One of the most important features of a web application is the ability to have the same kinds of location intelligence capabilities and real-time awareness accessible both in the office and in the field. Custom-designed web apps for smartphones and tablets make it easy for first responders to gain an increased understanding of data during an emergency. These tools also enable faster and more efficient data collection and collaboration because information from the field can be instantly transferred and analyzed by officials at headquarters.


3. Information synthesis

As the flow of information over FirstNet increases, managing large volumes of data will become more critical. Agencies will want to visualize and analyze larger datasets, especially those derived from internet of things sensor data. Tools and technologies that can handle this big data are becoming indispensable. Location intelligence tools make the exploration, analysis and iteration of such information easier by infusing it with demographic data to provide additional context and guided workflows for common tasks.


4. Analyzing and interpreting sensor data

As the IoT continues to bloom and communities modernize, each aspect of infrastructure will have a component that connects it to a geospatial network, allowing departments to see the status of their assets with the added context of where. This isn’t just for flood gauges or digital thermometers -- location intelligence is now enabling the government enterprise to collect data from unconventional sources like Waze and social media feeds. By cross-checking authoritative data against this crowdsourced, citizen-derived information, public safety agencies can get a more complete picture of the event to which they are responding. And by monitoring and integrating this data, they can ensure that real-time information such as road closures and obstructions are accurate and up-to-the-minute.


The future of location-based response

These innovations don’t necessarily depend on dedicated, wired broadband infrastructure for interoperability. If a powerful storm destroys all the cell network towers, responders can  deploy a portable cellular network that only services the geographic area where it is needed. Known as cellular on wheels, these moveable, transient wireless networks can only function with a location-powered backbone, a geographic context that anchors them to the assets they serve.


FirstNet will allow government agencies to connect during massive public emergencies on a level that previously has been difficult because of the roadblocks inherent in large siloed organizations. But location intelligence -- enabled  by web apps and a holistic approach to big data and analytics  --  will make this new communication infrastructure a key part of any community’s Next Generation 911 platform.