In July of this year, public safety professionals from around the world descended on San Diego, California to attend Esri’s 4-day National Security and Public Safety Summit. Over 700 commanders and staff came together to share the challenges and successes they’ve had while protecting over the past year.
As the conference began, I stood in awe, hand over heart, as the flag of the United States was presented. I listened intently as our national anthem was powerfully sung. I felt a sense of gratitude at the reverence displayed by our many international colleagues and government leaders in attendance.
During a “moment of silence” for those who had lost their lives in the line of duty last year, my mind raced back to personal friends who died in the line of duty. Their deaths and the accompanying heartache felt by comrades and loved ones suddenly raced back and I found myself stirred with deep emotion. I could see the faces of many of the attendees, and they too seemed to be humbly honoring those great heroes from around the world.
Once the summit was underway, I saw police officers, firefighters and emergency managers sitting side-by-side, interacting with each other, both during and in-between sessions. Their common mission of public protection powerfully eliminated preconceived misconceptions and personal biases. Together, they were learning from each other, embracing commonalities and solving problems.
I marveled at the great work being done globally, like the work of the Lebanese Red Cross who adopted a new GIS strategy to improve ambulance response times. These efforts are now saving lives and our colleagues in Lebanon are leveraging that investment to improve their mobile web applications for improved data collection and information sharing.
The summit provided examples of real-world, national security and public safety challenges, like those shared by CEO Brian Fontes of NENA, the National Emergency Number Association. Fontes shared NENA’s newly created national PSAP Registry portal, designed to spatially show all public safety answering points (command & control centers). The Registry will support many of the next generation call-taking efforts.
Other presentations included how U.S. Customs and Border Protection is saving lives through the Missing Migrant Program. This program was designed to save lives along the 4,200 square miles of the Rio Grande Valley and evidence shows that it’s working.
Richard Reed of the FirstNet Authority shared how GIS is used in the rollout of the first voice and data broadband network dedicated to first-responders and Colonel Volker Kozok showed how the German Armed Forces are using GIS to combat hybrid warfare.
At one point, I found myself smiling as I reflected on what I was witnessing. It was a true “coming together” of several life-saving disciplines and it included all of the fun-loving banter that exists between first-responders.
My personal example goes like this (and sounds like a broken record) as several old firefighter friends approached me with the same humor I’ve heard for 40 years, saying, “Hey King, if you could have scored two more points on your public safety exam, you could have been a fireman too!” Not to be outdone, and in true form to my law enforcement brotherhood, I simply responded with some of the many reasons why law enforcement is a more noble career, and why we always won the town celebration tug-o’-wars – not just by brawn… but also our brilliance!
The National Security and Public Safety Summit offered everyone in attendance with a unique balance between visionary leader keynotes, forward-thinking presentations and networking opportunities where attendees could learn about the rapid advances that are occurring globally, including how GIS is influencing and empowering first-responders. Let's continue the conversation in this GeoNet discussion, how will you work to build resilience and collaborate in the new normal?
Early September historically sees the most disaster damage in the US, because it’s the height of the hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin. In time for this busy season, FEMA has released Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) templates for Survey123 for ArcGIS. The templates streamline data collection on handheld devices and mark an ongoing digital transformation from traditional paper forms.
A PDA report is mandated by Congress in order to determine if disaster damages warrant a presidential major disaster declaration and the funds that come with it. The templates address one of the primary goals of FEMA’s new strategic plan—to reduce complexity—making it easier and quicker for communities and individuals to receive the assistance they need.
“We designed the survey to be easy for anyone to fill out,” said Erin Densford, Recovery Operations Officer, FEMA headquarters. “We know that state, local, tribal and territorial governments sometimes have to rely on people that have never done a damage assessment before, and the language on the survey is meant to be very straightforward.”
The PDA process starts at the local level where damage details are initially collected, shared, and validated by State, Tribal, and Territorial authorities. These entities generally have 30 days from the start of an incident to determine whether or not federal assistance in the form of FEMA Individual Assistance, Public Assistance or other federal programs may be necessary.
Many local authorities thankfully face disasters for the first time or go decades between events. For those new to the process or refreshing their understanding, the process is well-documented in a detailed manual. However, the level of detail is hard to process in the immediate aftermath of a disaster event.
“With the templates, you can look at the data schema and have a good sense of what we want within five or ten minutes,” Densford said. “It’s far faster than looking through the 60-page manual, which users can reference for clarification.”
The template approach has been in the works for some time. It has been tested in pilot programs with state and local authorities. Refinements have reached the point where it’s ready to be shared broadly with the emergency management community.
This process isn’t a great leap forward in time savings for individual assessments, but it greatly improves accuracy and overall reporting. In testing, it takes a bit more time than paper because the step-by-step form-based approach requires that each field be filled out for each assessment. With this template approach, “We’re getting all the pieces of information that we hope to collect, whereas we had gaps in the paper-based process in the past,” Densford said.
This improved accuracy also relates to improved location details.
“We have used GPS for some time,” Densford said. “With the manual effort, it was easier to get a location wrong by incorrectly transposing long numbers of latitude and longitude which meant we weren’t able to create maps based on the data.”
With Survey123, location is automatically registered to the damage details and photos of the damage, making map-based reporting as easy as hitting a button.
Work is ongoing on streamlining the data flow from the data being collected in the templates to the Public Assistance grant program system (PA Grants Manager). This next step promises to speed the flow of funds needed to rebuild, repair or replace damaged infrastructure in impacted communities.
“We have priorities to reduce the complexity and deliver individual assistance quickly, and this tool speaks to both of those objectives,” Densford said. “We’re making the process more transparent and hopefully condensing the time it takes for a community to achieve recovery.”
Learn how to configure and optimize the FEMA Preliminary Damage Assessment templates using Survey123 in this GeoNet post.
The 38th Esri User Conference (Esri UC) was an incredible success. When nearly 18,000 Esri geographic information system (GIS) technology users gather for a week of learning, networking, and sharing ideas, the result can only benefit all involved. The content ranged from integrating data from “low earth orbit” satellites to dealing with a total solar eclipse “where the sun don't shine”.
This was my first User Conference since becoming an employee of Esri, and while I had attended the Esri UC previously as a user, my role this year provided a new perspective on the event. It was humbling to see the commitment of Esri personnel to our user community. Our only focus is to support our users, to see them succeed, and to serve. It is through this servant role that we see the incredible accomplishments of our users. For those of us in the public safety industry, these accomplishments mean saving lives, preserving property, and protecting the environment. The 2018 Esri UC had multiple examples of GIS leveraged to do just that—maintaining safe communities and protecting our neighbors.
For the public safety team, the event started with the National Security and Public Safety Summit (NSPSS) @ Esri UC. The theme this year was Prepare for the New Normal—explore new ways to overcome increasingly complex and unpredictable threats and hazards. This two-day preconference event had its largest attendance to date. Over 450 defense, law enforcement, fire, emergency medical, and emergency management personnel gathered for presentations about the successful use of GIS.
These NSPSS presentations covered topics including responding to wildfires, managing significant events such as the Super Bowl and the NCAA Final Four tournament, and sharing data with multiple agencies to coordinate preparations for and response to disasters. Local, state, federal, and international agencies demonstrated how GIS is used to prevent, assess, and respond to incidents. As an example, the European Union (EU) Satellite Centre presented on the use of satellite data to provide geospatial intelligence to a wide range of users within the European External Action Service and the EU member states. This presentation showcased the use of Esri technology, ranging from analysis performed on the desktop to the services being delivered through portals, from the management of the migration crisis to the support for the dismantlement of chemical weapons depots in Syria.
The theme of this year's Esri User Conference was Inspiring What's Next. As always, the main event began with Jack Dangermond presenting his vision at the Plenary Session. While his vision included where the technology is going, Dangermond started the week by having all in attendance consider what's next for our planet. What does that mean to individuals, families, and our communities? We live in a complex, interconnected world, and we can use geography to connect us. This constantly changing world creates many challenges—climate change, drought, deforestation, pollution, increasing urbanization, and many others. These challenges require us to fundamentally understand our world, as understanding precedes action. The Science of Where provides the framework and process for applying geographic knowledge that we can use to change our world. You can watch the 2018 Esri UC Plenary Session https://www.esri.com/videos/?event=594d5ac051b03b9718bde52b&title=Esri%20User%20Conference if you missed it earlier.
The Plenary Session maintained the Inspiring What's Next theme with a discussion of the emerging capabilities for the Esri platform. These capabilities include augmented reality, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. The increasing use of embedded devices in vehicles, clothing, and our environment—all with a geographic component—will impact our lives every day. With 3D capabilities providing a better understanding of our environment, first responders can—in seconds—identify the location of a person needing help, such as which floor in the building the person is in. GIS removes the technological complexities to allow us to solve real problems easily.
The latest release of ArcGIS Pro can help you visualize, edit, and analyze your geographic data in both 2D and 3D, providing full context to the area you are mapping. You are able to easily share your work—from mobile web scenes to paper maps—creating tailored experiences for different types of users. ArcGIS Pro 2.2 has many new features that are exciting, particularly when it comes to editing in 2D and 3D; performing quick visibility analysis; and sharing your 3D content on any device, anywhere, anytime.
Esri's ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World continues to evolve and provide multiple data sources for our users. One example of Living Atlas data is Sentinel-2 imagery for the entire planet. Each place on earth is reimaged every five days, and the data is updated daily. This service provides imagery and infrared views. The rich content of the Living Atlas is brought together in the Earth Systems Monitor. The monitor allows you to view climate data, real-time weather conditions, and urban development as well as a global human footprint map. You can review some of the Sentinel-2 capabilities at sentinel2explorer.esri.com/.
Thousands of attendees from over 140 countries gathered in the San Diego Convention Center to learn how the innovative use of GIS addresses the issues impacting our planet. Examples of this work included the following:
Environmental modeling and assessment
Planning and urban design
Engineering and public works
Utilities and telecommunications
Public health and demographics
Public safety and security
Portal for ArcGIS, open data, and citizen engagement
One of the event highlights for Esri staff is the direct interaction and support we provided to our customers. For the public safety team, these exchanges primarily occurred in the Public Safety Neighborhood at the GIS Solutions Expo. This area allowed us to provide one-on-one demos, answer questions about solutions, and demonstrate solutions from our partners. There were also comprehensive presentations by our skilled staff in the Operations Platform for Safety/Security (OPS) Center Theater.
The Esri UC always focuses on our user community and its success. Throughout the conference, attendees could join other users during their presentations about the use of GIS. One of the most interesting sessions I was able to attend was about one community's effort to deal with "Where the Sun Don't Shine"! Trich Van Wagner, GIS manager for Bonneville County, Idaho provided an extremely entertaining presentation about how the county used GIS to manage the influx of visitors in the Idaho Falls area for the August 21, 2017, solar eclipse. Hundreds of thousands of people across the nation were vying for the best viewing spot, impacting localities across the nation.
Van Wagner and Bonneville County staff leveraged GIS to create incident maps and web apps for local government use. They mapped campsites and emergency response resources, and they used mobile applications such as Survey123 for ArcGIS and the ArcGIS environment to provide real-time incident data. This data was analyzed and communicated via story maps and dashboards. This presentation clearly demonstrated how The Science of Where helped provide a safe and efficient response to this significant special event.
Dangermond clearly stated that the goal of this year's Esri User Conference is unchanged from 38 years ago: to be together, learn from each other, share knowledge, and—from time to time—have a little fun. By all indications, we met this goal in 2018.
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.
Over the past year, we have been migrating the live feeds, provided by Esri Tech Marketing (http://tmservices1.esri.com), to ArcGIS Online. All of these feeds are now part of the Living Atlas collection under the “Earth Observations” category. As we have announced previously, the Technical Marketing Services will be retired at the end of this year—December 31, 2016. This is a friendly reminder to update your maps and apps to use the new location of the live feeds before the end of the year.
There is no charge to use these services and no credits are consumed, but you do have to have an ArcGIS Online organizational subscription or developer account. With Portal for ArcGIS at 10.5, you can leverage these live feeds by following these steps. Also note, these feeds can be shared publicly in maps and apps, but there are a couple of extra steps. The Story Maps Check Stories tool is very helpful to ensure there are no issues when sharing these feeds in public apps.
Here is the full list of live feeds and their permanent location:
The Esri International User Conference has many presentations and events with hundreds of topics covered. To help you find your way to the Public Safety, Law Enforcement, and National Security sessions and events, we have prepared a more focused agenda for you.
(Includes: Law Enforcement, Fire, Wildland Fire, Homeland Security, Disaster/Emergency Response, E-911 and EMS)