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GIS Enables Fusion Centers in Supporting Safe Communities

05-02-2017 03:59 PM
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By Carl Walter, National Security Industry Manager • Esri Public Safety Team


All security issues have one thing in common—location.

Global events routinely shed light on the complex, interrelated worlds of safety and security. Civil unrest, crime, natural disasters, and widespread public health threats all reflect the heightened need for coordinated prevention activities and response capabilities. Intelligence fusion centers are uniquely positioned to spearhead this coordination.

Fusion centers have been a growing practice since 9/11. They are embedded in most local, state, federal, military, and corporate organizations worldwide. These centers are tasked with collecting, analyzing, and sharing crime, disaster, and threat-related information throughout all levels of government and with the private sector and the public. Fusion centers also provide support during critical incidents and planned, high-risk special events.

To support many missions, fusion center technical solutions must be able to fuse foundational, incident, dynamic, and intelligence data. Integrating data from multiple data sources and multiple agencies with advanced maps and spatial analysis can only be accomplished through the effective use of geographic information system (GIS) technology.

Esri's new Safe Communities initiative is focused on helping organizations rapidly set up GIS for shared situational awareness. This initiative supports fusion center efforts to use GIS as a foundation for preventing crime and protecting lives, property, and critical infrastructure.

This is the first blog of an eight-part series. These blogs will outline an expanded approach to using GIS for information fusion, operations, and analysis that supports safe communities. This process-based approach goes beyond using GIS to support common operating pictures (COPs) for visualization and moves toward leveraging GIS as a system of insight that supports the entire intelligence life cycle. Geospatial frameworks enable interconnectivity between people, processes, and data. With this approach, agencies with a national security mission can

  • Collect and integrate information for rapid analysis to identify threat patterns, trends, and relationships.
  • Create repeatable and shareable information and models.
  • Reuse information and services across systems and jurisdictions.
  • Improve risk, threat, and vulnerability assessments to safeguard communities and critical infrastructure.
  • Facilitate better emergency planning, response, mitigation, and recovery efforts.
  • Provide enhanced dissemination and knowledge capture.
  • Evolve the common operational picture to a common operational platform.


GIS is a complete system that goes beyond powerful visualizations. It provides the ability to organize information, as well as analyze and understand trends and protection priorities in new ways. GIS also supports streamlined data dissemination. It is an effective tool for both internal and external communication.

Integrating and geotagging structured and unstructured data, including sensor, imagery, and video data, empowers users to fully analyze and exploit that information and create actionable information out of raw data. One GIS platform supports a fusion center's many missions.

Perhaps most importantly, GIS provides a common language and reference system for multiple disciplines—including law enforcement, emergency management, intelligence, public health, and defense. It empowers stakeholders to collaborate and make data-driven decisions.

Join us for our subsequent blogs as we tackle a series of questions and community challenges that stand in the way of realizing safer communities.


About the Author
I am the Industry Specialist for Public Safety and Disaster Response Program. This includes Public Safety sub-markets of Law Enforcement, Homeland/National Security, Emergency Management, Emergency Communications, Humanitarian, Fraud Waste and Abuse, Corporate Security and Resilience, Fire/Rescue/EMS, and Wildland Fire. I also coordinate the Disaster Response Program and here at Esri. I manage the National Security Summit and National Security Showcase at the UC every year. I have been with Esri since 2000. Content I post may be from my team members and will be indicated in the by-line.