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By Ryan Lanclos, Director of Public Safety Industries, Esri


As San Antonio, Texas prepared to host the 2018 NCAA Men’s Final Four Championship in early April, a series of bombs exploded in nearby Austin.


“That put everybody on edge, then one of the bombs went off at the FedEx transfer facility in Schertz, which is just 17 miles up the road, and it brought the risk home,” said James Glass, deputy director of the Southwest Texas Fusion Center, one of many such centers across the US that collaborate with all first responders to detect, prevent, investigate and respond to criminal and terrorist activities.


Fears continue to escalate as the world experiences more tragedies at big events. In response, local and national law enforcement agencies are enhancing venue security and raising public awareness with promotional campaigns such as “If you see something, say something.”


“For the NCAA games, people were paying closer attention,” said Douglas Berry, San Antonio Fire Department Battalion Chief. “There were a lot more reports of suspicious packages, and the ability to vet those quickly was very important.”


Forces on Foot


The NCAA Final Four weekend in San Antonio included a three-day music festival at Hemisfair Plaza, a fan fest at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, and games at the Alamodome. With all event venues within walking distance of each other, hundreds of thousands of people milled around the city’s compact downtown. San Antonio deployed a large force of on-foot officers to ensure safety. The challenge for the Southwest Texas Fusion Center was twofold: give every officer the maps and data they needed for each event and maintain visibility of each officer’s location.


“We had been getting details on temporary setups from the NCAA months in advance,” said Sean Cummings, Public Safety Enterprise GIS Solutions Supervisor at City of San Antonio. “We put all of the details on the map, including the buildings, the booths, the road closures, the entrances, the access control points, the stage, and where lines would form.”


The Fusion Center deployed these maps to more than 200 networked smartphones. At command centers, staff could track and share the identity of each phone, and officers could search the map and share photos tied to locations.



Vetting Suspicious Packages


Word went out well before the events that attendees could only bring a clear bag no larger than 12-by-6-by-12 inches. Despite this widely broadcasted message, and free bags distributed at multiple locations, many people brought bags that they ditched when they realized that they couldn’t bring them inside a venue.


This lead to many suspicious bag reports and follow-up responses from officers and joint hazard assessment teams (JHAT) that specialize in bomb and hazardous material threats. With each call, came a rough location. Command post staff used a live common operating picture to correlate each report with the real-time location and input from responding officers. They also were able to access and point the closest CCTV camera to capture and share a view of the scene.


“Even if someone just left a bag, you can’t rule it to chance,” Glass said. “The teams collected 264 separate suspicious packages that they went through, cataloged, and put in the police property room.


In one case, a patrolman forwarded a picture of a suspicious package that turned out to be one of many remote hazardous materials monitoring stations. With the visual evidence, the JHAT team was immediately able to dismiss it and save a time-consuming trip.


“Photos let us vet each suspicious package a lot sooner,” Berry said. “That makes a huge difference on response times and resources when you go from making one run every couple of days to making more than 10 runs a day.”


More Big Moments


At many crucial moments during the NCAA weekend, maps proved vital for those charged with public safety. A few hours prior to the final game on Monday night, the Fusion Center team went out for a quick meal. Just then, they received two suspicious package alerts. Instead of rushing for the door, staff pulled out their phones to look at the live map. They watched a play by play as the package was investigated and revealed to be a harmless diaper bag that had fallen out of a minivan. This real-time situational awareness brought relief, and a much-needed dinner break, to Fusion Center staff.


During the March Madness Music Festival, Fusion Center staff noticed a sudden convergence of officers near the main stage. Training a camera on the gathering, staff noted that officers were not responding to an incident but were showing support for performer Jason Aldean, a country music star who was last on stage in Las Vegas in October 2017 when a gunman opened fire on the crowd. The officers gathered for an impromptu “we’ve got your back” moment, making their presence known to the performer and the crowd.


In command centers throughout downtown San Antonio, dashboards displayed details beyond the live common operating picture. Staff could see an incident log for different zones across all venues and a running tally of events with levels of activity. Dashboard users could zoom into each logged event for more details. Another dashboard provided the historical record, parsing the number of calls for service and types of calls over time.

Dedicated Bandwidth for First Responders


AT&T recently won the contract to set up a high-bandwidth first responder network called FirstNet, which provides a dedicated interoperable public safety broadband network. In the first phase, it prioritizes network bandwidth for every SIM card assigned to the FirstNet network, putting priority on messages and images shared by first responders. In phase two, it will provide a completely new infrastructure to separate law enforcement communication from consumer communication.


“It’s one thing to have the software and the hardware to do it, but you’re only as good as the cell phone towers,” Berry said. “When 200,000 people cram into a small area downtown, the network starts to bog down. It’s huge to be able to bump selfie traffic in order for law enforcement to communicate and send text messages and photos.”


The phones and the FirstNet network augment the professional radios that each officer carries. While the radios provide secure communications, they don’t provide location services or the ability to text or take photos. Because phones use GPS as well as WiFi and Bluetooth signals, each one returns an accurate location for the officer carrying it whether they were indoors or out.


Fusing Intelligence


Law enforcement agencies increasingly share intelligence, and today’s digital workflows make this easier. San Antonio set up its Fusion Center more than ten years ago, taking an all-crimes and all-hazards approach to information sharing across the city’s public safety community.


The need for a new special event management solution centered in the Fusion Center became apparent after an incident at the city’s annual ten-day Fiesta historical celebration. When someone passed out from heat exhaustion during the parade, emergency medical staff rushed in to help. Seeing this, nearby police officers thought it was the beginning of a fight and moved in. The two groups forcing their way into a small and crowded area caused some minor injuries in the crowd.


“It really screamed to us that we needed a common operating platform where we can communicate amongst each other,” Glass said. “We had two different dispatching systems and dispatchers that didn’t communicate in a crisis.”


The Fusion Center now centralizes calls for service and aggregates intelligence from a variety of different systems. Using mobile phones for the NCAA event made fusion easier than ever before by getting everyone on the same page fast. FBI agents, plainclothes police officers, and various food inspection and ordinance enforcement personnel each had their own phones. Everyone with a phone could easily access relevant information and communicate with their peers. Live tracking of each phone’s location gave the command centers a clear picture of available resources.


“That’s really the power of a web-based map,” said Aric Jimenez, special projects manager at the Southwest Texas Fusion Center. “You have nothing to set up except granting people access and sending them a URL.”


Accountability has become a driving force in law enforcement with the advent of body cams and bystanders taking and sharing images and videos from their phones. The solution San Antonio deployed for the NCAA Final Four helped in the moment and afterward by providing a record of the event.


“Going forward, it’s very important to not only track activity, but to look at the data a number of different ways, capture it, and then analyze it and do forecasting,” Berry said. “Everybody has a different perspective, fusion allows us to break down the data so that each person can see what they need when they need it.”


Using Smart Devices to Increase Situational Awareness


The Fusion Center deployed Workforce for ArcGIS to provide the common view for both the officers on foot and the command centers. The software provides the means to define the roles and work areas of different field workers. In this case, the Fusion Center defined the location and geographic extent of each officer’s post as well as the expertise and incident type best suited to each officer. It also provides the overall status of each person that both the Fusion Center and individual officers could view on a real-time map. This data fuels the Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS for the flexible display of real-time information at a glance. The software enhanced the centralized dispatching and incident response system, allowing the Fusion Center to efficiently and effectively respond to any call. Workforce and Operations Dashboard are used widely in public works, utilities, construction, field sales, and public safety domains. The software and mobile device applications fill in data gaps while maintaining connections to enhance the coordination of activities.

By Ryan Lanclos, Esri


You’ve heard for years how the world is undergoing a digital transformation (DX). In fact, your own home probably has more sensors than you realize. They might control everything from your air conditioning to lights or even provide real-time audio and video from your front door. However, many of us don’t fully realize that the ongoing digital transformation is more than just a buzzword or the inclusion of smart sensors into our homes.  Digital transformation is about how we apply and integrate digital technologies to support the business processes of our organizations. For those who work in public safety, the ongoing digital transformation around us presents an amazing opportunity to build safer communities.


As you plan your work in 2018, here are 4 key trends in public safety that will help you take advantage of the ongoing digital transformation. While some of these trends may currently be a disruption, they will become more common over the next few years. Now is the time to prepare and position your agency as a digital transformation leader in public safety.


Drones Fly High

In 2017, the Los Angeles Fire Department used drones for the first time to fight the Skirball Fire. Their aerial drone provided situational awareness and helped assess hot spots around the fire using infrared imagery. The Austin Fire Department’s Robotics Emergency Deployment Division now has 21 employees supporting their efforts.  As standards are developed and regulations are simplified, more and more public safety departments are looking to integrate drones into their arsenal.  As this transformation continues, GIS tools like Esri’s Drone2Map provide the ability to integrate data directly from your drone into ArcGIS. From there you have the full capabilities of ArcGIS at your disposal. You can conduct image analysis and create apps that provide decision support to first responders and operators. For more info on Drone2Map, visit:


Machines Are Getting Smarter

Machine Learning (ML) continues to make ArcGIS smarter.  At Esri we are focused on where ML and GIS intersect which in turn means that public safety organizations will be able to make better data driven decisions.  For example, ML provides law enforcement agencies the ability to derive predictions about where crime may occur, or allow an emergency management planner to determine where a certain hazard might strike and what part of the community is most vulnerable.  The massive amounts of data already available within, and available to, many of our organizations becomes the training data that allows ML to work its magic.  By connecting the data in your records management system (RMS) to ArcGIS and then leveraging ML, you can gain insights on where to position your limited resources to mitigate potential issues. When a disaster strikes and post-event imagery is made available, ML enables you to classify an image to determine damage estimates in areas that may still be inaccessible.  ML will continue to evolve within ArcGIS and provide you with tools that help you make smarter and more data driven decisions. 


Real-Time and Event-Driven Actions

I started this article talking about how sensors are showing up in the most unexpected places.  But what about the sensors you have access to within your public safety organization?  Traffic sensors, cameras, stream gauges, weather stations, air quality monitors, and even smart assets like streetlights and trashcans provide you with real-time data that can be leveraged to your advantage.  By connecting to these sensors and exploiting the location element within this network of sensors, you can begin to trigger actions based on the real-time information you are receiving. When a certain set of criteria or business rules are met, your system responds to this new information in real-time.  A simple example might be that you proactively dispatch resources and alert citizens in a flood prone area based on changing weather conditions. Esri’s Real-Time GIS capability provides you with the tools to improve situational awareness and enable a faster response that can help save lives and property. Learn more at:


Dedicated Connectivity

At the end of 2017, all 50 states opted-in to the nation’s first public safety dedicated broadband infrastructure that will support communications across the public safety industry. FirstNet provides communities with access to a broadband network that enables a much-needed priority flow of data and information to first responders.  This means that your GIS applications running on mobile devices in the field will have priority access to bandwidth during an incident.  The apps your first responders rely on will now have a dedicated network capable of providing high-speed connectivity that improves information delivery, collection, and collaboration.

Learn more about how Esri helps you embrace digital transformation in public safety by visiting

We look forward to seeing you at the 2018 FedGIS Conference. To help you and your organization gain the maximum benefit from this event, we have highlighted a few resources among the hundreds of different activities, workshops and Expo opportunities available on March 20-21.  Learn more at 2018 Esri Federal GIS Conference

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 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.

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

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission reported that during the days following Hurricane Irma, 29 of Florida's emergency 911 centers were unable to provide adequate service. This breakdown has sparked a response by Senators Bill Nelson of Florida and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who have sponsored legislation designed to enhance and upgrade, through expedited funding, Next Generation 911 systems across the nation.  

Throughout the United States, emergency dispatch centers are grappling with outdated analog systems that are not capable of handling today's mobile technology, such as text messaging, video, and sensor data. Migrating existing systems to newer, digital solutions will provide better location information and improve the transfer of critical information to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) and first responders.

Esri applauds this effort to improve our declining 911 infrastructure. While the cost of improvement may be high, the price of failing to upgrade antiquated systems may be astronomical. The public has embraced mobile technology and expects our PSAPs to be capable of receiving critical information from any device—something that this legislation will help make a reality.

Esri stands at the forefront of this Next Generation 911 effort by providing a world-class geographic information system (GIS) to build and maintain accurate address databases, which are the foundation for timely response. Esri also provides real-time analysis of 911 data and offers easy-to-use mobile tools for sharing critical information to and from the field. Our large pool of partners includes most of the computer-aided dispatch companies that 911 centers rely on, and our tools and templates provide first responders with the critical information they need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.

Existing Esri customers can immediately take advantage of our growing library of free tools and templates for PSAPs, law enforcement, fire agencies, emergency management, and emergency medical services (EMS) by visiting the Esri Public Safety page. Everyone can take advantage of our webinar series, where the latest advancements in GIS for public safety are shared.

Learn more about how the City of Chicago prepared for and successfully managed the 40th Bank of America Chicago Marathon using ArcGIS. This year's race included 45,000 runners and 1.7 million spectators.


“Chicago is a special event-driven city, and this is one of our biggest events of the year,” Thomas Sivak, deputy director of the OEMC said. “We have worked hard to establish a common operating picture to support our decision-making processes. Adding a real-time awareness of runners helps us know the size and complexity of any incident, and helps us manage the consequences.”


Read the full story at

By Philip Mielke, Esri Patterns and Practice


In the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) world, ArcGIS is known for providing the basis for mapping, geocoding, routing, and geographic lookup capabilities. Additionally, state and local governments are using ArcGIS to store and establish geographic records, communicate with stakeholders through powerful maps, and derive new insights in their data by using analysis. While developing a mature geographic information system (GIS) can take time, there are several ways that you can immediately leverage ArcGIS for meaningful tasks.


This high-level overview will guide you in using ArcGIS Online to build a field app to collect and manage common place-names for a CAD geocoding system. By sharing the responsibility of updating common place-names, your agency will be able to update them quickly and record changes and observations while in the field. A better common place-names database means getting first responders to where they need to be, without mistakes. You'll need administrative-level access to configure ArcGIS Online, publish address data, make a web map, and create Crowdsource Reporter and Crowdsource Manager applications to collect common place-names.


Create a Group

Good work needs a nice, clean place to start! A group in ArcGIS Online establishes the permission and content for a working group. You'll want to create a group specifically to house the data, maps, and apps that you'll be publishing and building. Use best practices for the group that you're creating, and choose a good icon and description to establish what this group is for. Invite staff who will be responsible for the collection and quality control of common place-names data.

Publish an Existing Common Place-Names Layer

ArcGIS Pro is the desktop software that GIS professionals are migrating their data and workflows to from ArcMap. You can add data from the geodatabase to update and manage addresses in ArcMap, and adjust symbology to reflect what you expect to see in the applications. Once you're happy with their look and feel, share data as web layers, via your ArcGIS Online organizational account, with the group you previously created. Depending on your agency, this means publishing addresses (your operational layer—where the work happens) and agency boundaries (your reference layer—where context resides).

Author a Web Map

A web map is where previously published web layers come together and behave according to the way that you configure a few simple parameters. This web map will be where the Crowdsource Reporter and Crowdsource Manager applications connect to for data, symbology, and some web mapping behavior like labeling and scale levels.


Add your recently published layers to the web map and adjust each layer to reflect the style and symbology that you want your users to see. Configure pop-ups to hide unnecessary fields, and establish clean aliases for your fields to make pop-ups more legible. Create labels to better contextualize your jurisdictional boundaries within the web application. Save the web map and share it with your working group.

Configure Crowdsource Reporter

Crowdsource Reporter is a configurable application template that allows users to submit problems or observations. We'll use this configurable application to collect crowdsourced common place-names from staff you grant access to. The application has been optimized for smartphones but is designed to be used on tablets and desktop computers as well.


From the Group view, you'll see the layers and web map that you've recently published and configured. On the right, you'll click Share to create a web app. Select Crowdsource Reporter.

You'll be able to configure the Crowdsource Reporter application and publish this for your working group by clicking Create a Web App. You won't need to deviate from the defaults to make a simple configuration of Crowdsource Reporter to collect common place-names in the field or at a desk.

Configure Crowdsource Manager

Crowdsource Manager—a companion configurable application template to data collection apps such as Crowdsource Reporter—allows users within an organization to review problems or observations submitted through the Crowdsource Reporter application. The application can be used on tablets and desktop computers.


You'll work through the same dialog box to create, configure, and share Crowdsource Manager. From the Group view, you'll see the layers and web map that you've recently published and configured. On the right, you'll click Share to create a web app. Select Crowdsource Manager.


Configure Crowdsource Manager to use it as a desktop quality control application. Users will be able to review recent additions for completeness and correctness.

Exporting Data for Updating the CAD System

At any regular interval, it's easy to export the data being recorded by Crowdsource Reporter and checked for quality by Crowdsource Manager. By going directly to the web layer you published in the group, you can export a shapefile or file geodatabase of the common place-names feature that your staff has been maintaining. Once you've downloaded it locally, you can import it into your CAD system through your usual methods.

If you have any questions on the above procedures discussed in this blog, please contact our Emergency Call Taking and Dispatch Manager, Mike King, at

By Mike King, Industry Manager, CAD/Law Enforcement, Esri


Hundreds of technology and government professionals gathered at the APCO Public Safety Broadband Summit in Washington, DC, in May 2017. A great deal of attention was focused on the keynote address by FirstNet CEO Michael Poth, and the audience showed much interest in the organization's preparations for nationwide broadband deployment.


Following Poth, Mark Golaszewski, FirstNet director of applications, revealed a number of goals for application development including a strategy to have apps that enable users in public safety to adopt and leverage the technologies of the commercial marketplace, a vision to propagate innovation, and an ecosystem that allows FirstNet and the commercial community to offer the best available tools and technologies available.


Golaszewski declared that these "high-priority" applications needed to include GIS mapping and the ability to visualize large volumes of data with the Internet of Things (IoT). The apps should be able to synthesize actionable information in operational viewers and include information such as computer-aided dispatch (CAD) data, vehicle locations, and other sensor data in a connected or unconnected, secure environment.


Esri had an opportunity to offer our GIS strategy for Next Generation 911 (NG911) immediately following the FirstNet presentation, and we took advantage of the timing to show how we are answering the FirstNet challenge with out-of-the-box web applications, tools, and templates. Since most government agencies are using Esri for their geospatial responsibilities, taking advantage of these free tools (for license holders) makes good fiscal sense, and those in attendance were counseled to speak with their jurisdictional GIS staff to see what licensing was available already.


The remainder of this blog will focus on a few of those FirstNet challenges, with examples of how Esri's web applications are answering the call, sometimes in a matter of hours.


Situational Awareness—Esri's out-of-the-box templates provide powerful ways to visualize data from a host of services: agencies' own internal data services, enterprise GIS, demographics, other sensor data feeds, and information in formats as simple as spreadsheets stored on a computer's desktop.



This example—calls for service from the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Police Department—was built in a day using Esri's Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS (a free template for license holders.) The dashboard shows a number of important things. In the upper left corner, we see Waze data being visualized on 1 of 12 maps that include street data, aerial imagery, and topography. Across the top is the current CAD queue, and in the middle of the left side, we see current CAD calls for service. Customizable metrics are displayed across the bottom of the screen, with video from 1 of 939 cameras appearing in the lower right corner. Above the closed circuit television (CCTV) image, in the center, is the Citizen Tips section, and above that is a report of all road closures in the city.


Operational dashboards like this are available to download for free and configure if you are an Esri license holder and can consume data hosted on-premises, in the cloud, on a desktop, or through a hybrid approach.


Portable Reporting with Credentialing—Esri provides tools for agencies to easily develop web applications for use in the field on iOS, Android, and Windows devices. These mobile apps enable data collection and allow greater collaboration among agencies, leading to increased understanding. The example below shows how one agency used ArcGIS out of the box to develop a tool for intelligence gathering in a serial killer investigation.



Information Synthesis—Analyzing large volumes of data is difficult. As we embrace the challenge to visualize and analyze larger datasets, including sensor data found through the IoT, the need for tools and technologies that handle big data becomes more critical. Insights for ArcGIS makes the exploration, analysis, and iteration of such data easier than ever with its drag-and-drop capabilities, the infusion of demographic data, and guided workflows. Now big data doesn't seem so big. This example shows billions of financial records being analyzed. At Esri, we say, "Rather than look for a needle in a haystack, simply burn down the haystack, pick up the needle, and move on to the next question."


Analyzing and Interpreting Sensor Data—As the IoT continues to bloom, more data is becoming available each day. By using an enterprise GIS, public safety professionals can begin to examine and understand how one type of data interacts with or influences another. This example shows Waze data in Budapest, Hungary, and examines the reliability of Waze against other public media surrounding major events.



Embracing NG911 Data—As more information becomes available through NG911, public safety professionals will need the ability to consume and analyze the data, sometimes on the fly. Enterprise GIS enables users to do just that, and challenges like 3D and indoor routing are surmountable now.


Esri is pleased to support the first responders who will rely on FirstNet, and we will continue to invest in research and development to assist the first responder community. For more information on the tools and templates available through Esri, visit and

After a watching the successful impact HIFLD for Harvey had on the response and recovery efforts for that disaster – supporting 6,000+ unique users – DHS has decided to launch a similar site to support the impending relief efforts for Hurricane Irma.  This decision was the result of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) working with the Homeland Infrastructure Foundation Level Data (HIFLD) Committee Chair and Federal GeoPlatform system owner, along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Geospatial Management Office to create this new Open Data website.  This new site is publicly accessible and based on the Esri ArcGIS Open Data application:



HIFLD for Irma – a sister Open Data site to HIFLD Open – is dedicated to unifying the response and recovery data aggregation efforts for Hurricane Irma.  HIFLD for Irma, creates a single authoritative source of relevant data for use by local, state, Federal, tribal, private sector, and community partners. It serves as a hub to aggregate and disseminate the best available relevant open data to support the massive mapping activities that are ongoing in support for Hurricane Irma response and recovery. New data and information will be added as it becomes available and is rapidly validated.


This site was created and is being supported by Esri Federal Small Business Specialty program partner ArdentMC.


If your organization has data to contribute, please send an email to Start using HIFLD for Irma today!  #HIFLD4Irma


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At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and working with the Homeland Infrastructure Foundation Level Data (HIFLD) Committee Chair and Federal GeoPlatform system owner, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has launched a dedicated website to provide Open Data in support of Hurricane Harvey.  This new site is publicly accessible and based on the Esri ArcGIS Open Data application:


HIFLD for Harvey – a sister Open Data site to HIFLD Open ( – is dedicated to unifying the response and recovery data aggregation efforts for Hurricane Harvey.  HIFLD for Harvey, creates a single reliable source of relevant data for use by local, state, Federal, tribal, private sector, and community partners. It serves as a hub to aggregate and disseminate the best available relevant open data to support the massive mapping activities that are ongoing in support for Hurricane Harvey response and recovery. 

This site is being actively managed by Esri business partner Ardent MC. New data and information is being added as it becomes available and is rapidly validated.

If your organization has data to contribute, please send an email to Start using HIFLD for Harvey Today!  #HIFLD4Harvey

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The impacts of Hurricane Harvey are being felt far and wide. As the rain continues to fall, and flood waters rise, an army of citizen-rescuers are answering the call. They are bringing their boats to bear and are plunging into waist-deep waters to help those in their communities. While it’s not possible for all of us to lend a helping hand directly, those that know GIS can lend a hand from afar.


The need for expertise on the many “where” questions of a disaster continue to grow, answering such questions as

  • Where are the one-story homes that are about to be immersed?
  • Where are dry beds and shelters for those that are displaced?
  • What are the quickest and safest routes to evacuate the most people in the shortest amount of time?


As the government encourages citizens to help one another, the non-profit organization made up of mapping experts is answering the call. GISCorps, a program of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA), has been providing a range of mapping and disaster response services for more than 14 years worldwide.


GISCorps volunteers conduct most of their work remotely and nearly half of their work responding to disasters. These volunteers harness the power of the cloud-based ArcGIS Online platform for such tasks as data collection, data cleansing, and creating story maps and map galleries to communicate needs and impacts.


“GISCorps volunteers have been involved in almost every disaster since 2003,” says Shoreh Elhami, the founder of URISA’s GISCorps. “We have worked on Hurricane Katrina, the Asian tsunami, the cyclone in Burma, the Ebola epidemic, and many more.”


Volunteers gain the satisfaction of helping those in need, and there are many ancillary benefits.


“Many of our volunteers have said they learn more quickly from GISCorps experiences than from their day jobs,” said Elhami. “They get exposed to different projects that require different skills and tools, and that provides a valuable learning experience.”


GISCorps uses ArcGIS Online to spread the work among volunteers and to create a communication platform to share updates on unfolding events.


“Thanks to the backing from the Esri Disaster Response Program, we have a backend that supports the work of our volunteers,” said Elhami. “We can ingest and process imagery, and to digitize points of interest in a way that’s much easier than in the past. I’m really excited about putting our 5,000 volunteers to work doing a lot more.”


Applying to become a GISCorps volunteer can be done only online.






Hurricane Harvey, at one point a category 4 hurricane, has brought devastating amounts of rainfall with extensive damages to Texas and Louisiana. As Harvey continues its catastrophic path, Esri’s Disaster Response Program (DRP) is here to support you around the clock 24/7.


If you need support with additional software, data, or technical support you can request immediate assistance from the DRP.


The Hurricanes and Tropical Cyclones Overview map provides up to date information on the potential impact, precipitation, and path of Harvey.



Emergency management agencies are also using social media and crowd sourcing to gain insight on the situation. This Crowdsource Story Map helps responders and emergency managers gain insight into the situation on the ground.



The Tropical Strom Harvey: Current Conditions Application

This interactive web application features Hurricane Harvey tracking, traffic alerts, road closures, shelter locations, flood gauges and more.


Track and forecast the path of Harvey:


Stay up to date with traffic alerts and closures:


Locate a shelter location nearest you:

Analyze the current situation of flood gauges:


Analyze 72-hour precipitation forecast:


Follow the DRP on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news.

By Chris McIntosh, Director, National Government Industries, Esri; and Bob Greenberg, CEO, G&H International Services, Inc.


Imagine a small town that has just suffered a significant natural disaster. It is almost always the case that the town will need to reach out to other jurisdictions to get help in the form of people and resources to respond effectively to the incident. To prepare for this common scenario, emergency managers need to develop a response strategy that identifies the resources they need and reveals where they will face shortfalls. Many emergency managers today use the Threat Hazard Identification Risk Assessment (THIRA) process to do just that, but when they do, the result is often a paper report in a binder or a static digital document that they have to dig out during an emergency.


Many of those same emergency managers also have access to an ArcGIS mapping platform that enables them to obtain rapid situational awareness of what is occurring during an incident—in near real time. Configured to provide essential elements of information (EEI), the system helps them understand things like the location of power outages, road status, and shelter status—all of which are very useful for identifying necessary resources and deploying them (see the National Information Sharing Consortium's [NISC] guidance on EEI's.


Situational awareness is very important in emergency management. It allows personnel to quickly visualize and understand the impact of an incident, identify trends, and predict outcomes. This leads to more accurate assessments and saves time—the most precious of all resources.


Connecting this insight to the actual deployment of resources is where the Threat Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) process tends to stall. Even armed with the most modern situational awareness tools, logistics personnel often have to revert to the paper plan to identify and find the resources they need—a process that is very time-consuming—as they go back and forth between their map, their planning documents, and other systems. They lose precious minutes and hours in identifying the resources; finding the right contact; contacting the resource provider; determining availability; and, ultimately, deploying the resource.


What if they had all that information, available in real time, on one platform? It would allow them to instantaneously identify an incident, understand the situation, and find and deploy the appropriate resources. The key to doing that is the ability to operationalize a resource plan by integrating it with their situational awareness system. Esri's ArcGIS platform provides that ability.


The Mutual Aid Resource Planner (MARP) tool, developed by Esri partner G&H International Services on behalf of the First Responders Group (FRG) of the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, enables planners to develop more accurate plans by integrating additional geospatial hazard and risk information. They can also preidentify partners that will help provide aid and fill resource gaps. These capabilities, integrated with the ArcGIS platform—which provides emergency responders across jurisdictions with a visualization of the existing and emerging situation in real time—allow them to collaborate on identifying resources and assigning responsibilities.


Requirements for the MARP application were initially developed during the CAPSTONE-14 exercise conducted by the Central US Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC), where emergency planners and managers from eight states identified the need to extend the planning concept outlined by the THIRA process. What became clear during the exercise was the importance of both operationalizing the THIRA process and preidentifying the required resources in order to track their availability during an event.


With Esri's support, G&H provided technical assistance to the CUSEC states during the CAPSTONE-14 exercise and began working with Esri's ArcGIS platform to configure its templates and applications to provide those capabilities. MARP is empowered by the ArcGIS platform, which provides access to data from multiple sources across various disciplines and jurisdictions to help emergency managers make fast and well-informed decisions regarding resources.


MARP has been tested through several experiments by multiple levels of government agencies. This past January, the MARP capabilities were tested as part of the first experiment under the FRG's Flood Apex program in New Orleans. It was also used by Michigan and Ontario, Canada, to develop cross-border mutual aid plans during the CAUSE (Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment) IV Experiment in April 2016.


MARP allows agencies to develop a more efficient plan for dealing with the aftermath of catastrophic events. It provides a simple yet innovative template that makes it easy to collaborate and share data among different jurisdictions. Building a better plan will help to strengthen a community's preparedness and resiliency. MARP is available to members of NISC, an Esri-supported organization dedicated to improving information sharing for better emergency preparedness. Membership is free. For MARP training, visit


For further information, visit

Counter Drug—Managing the Opioid Epidemic—Part Two of an Eight-Part Safe Communities Blog Series

By Carl Walter, National Security and Fusion Center Industry Manager • Esri Public Safety Team


Recent global events have shed light on the complex, interrelated worlds of public safety and national security. Civil unrest, crime, natural disasters, and widespread public health threats all reflect the heightened need for coordinated prevention activities and effective response capabilities. Geospatial technology is uniquely positioned as the technical platform to spearhead this coordination—including when the threat is a public health crisis like the ongoing opioid epidemic.


The opioid crisis is happening in every community and affecting every demographic. The hallmark of a safe community is having organizations use geographic information system (GIS) technology as a foundation for multiagency, multijurisdictional collaboration. Geography plays a role in managing any community emergency. While the opioid epidemic presents unique challenges, GIS technology enables governments to understand the who, where, when, and why in real time, potentially saving the lives of countless Americans.


Counterdrug agencies have a common goal of disrupting the market for illegal drugs by arresting and dismantling those involved in drug trafficking and related money laundering activities. Recently, drug overdose has become the leading cause of injury and death in the United States. Opioid abuse is a major contributor to this epidemic and now requires governments to rethink their drug enforcement strategies—making sure they better align with public health strategies—to save lives. What's more troubling is that, in the face of this public health crisis, prescriptions for opioids have reached an all-time high.


Creating tools in the field that enable real-time mapping of overdose incidents while protecting sensitive personal identifiers is a strategy worth exploring. These tools must allow first responders in the field a simple way to identify the location of an overdose, input basic information about the event, and submit that data in real time to an enterprise geographic information system. Once received, data can be leveraged using dashboards, Esri Story Maps apps, and other Web GIS tools so trends can be identified and information can be shared with decision-makers, relevant stakeholders, and even the public. A geocentric approach to managing this data in real time will allow officials to make lifesaving decisions with the goal of preventing further overdose cases.


The Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, the Department of Homeland Security Geospatial Management Office (GMO), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are utilizing GIS to coordinate their drug-fighting and information sharing efforts. The integration of local law enforcement, health agencies, and communities allows them to improve their response to opioid overdoses by proactively identifying and monitoring indicators and warnings and sharing authoritative data in near real time (see,


Discover how GIS can help your community battle the opioid epidemic. Join us for our upcoming webinar on June 21 to explore the strategy of creating tools in the field to enable real-time mapping of overdose incidents while protecting sensitive personal identifiers.

Wednesday, June 21 | 9:00 a.m.–10:00 a.m. (PDT)

Register Now