Public safety is an issue that concerns more than just the public. Governments, and researchers from small municipalities to the US capital, invest time and money trying to improve the lives of citizens. In fact, up to 64% of most city budgets are invested in police and fire departments alone. Technology is playing a big part in coming up with solutions, such as using GIS to improve public safety.
What is GIS?
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a data integration protocol that’s being used to analyze everything from traffic congestion to emergency vehicle response times. They work with other software to study criminal behavior, solve logistics issues for search and rescue operations and even deploy emergency warning systems for residents.
For example, the water department in one area with a population of more than 300,000 needed an efficient way to let residents know when there were water safety issues. It’s impractical to send email to that many people or wait for them to open their bill to learn that they needed to start boiling their tap water for the time being. They used a GIS system called GeoDecisons Notify to send a text to customers that was able to reach all subscribed phones within seconds.
The system they installed also allowed them to audit the texts to confirm which customers they were able to reach and which needed outreach. Without GIS, they might have wasted resources on other, less efficient methods of communication. With this technology, government agencies and businesses can:
- Enhance a feature for easier identification
- Identify emerging patterns
- Find specific items, whether they are scattered, in larger groups or in smaller clusters
- Show pools or large concentrations of almost any substance and its exact location
Another case study involves a city’s efforts to fight the opioid epidemic. Using a GIS-based mapping and analysis tools called Project Safe Neighborhoods Mapping and Analysis Program, they were able to track and produce reports about naloxone administration in specific neighborhoods. That allows them to plan better intervention strategies and save lives.
How Does it Work?
GIS uses multiple information and input sources, including hardware, software and date, to analyze and manage captured data. This can be dome by direct input through a keyboard, location photography, video feeds and satellite. GIS offers the capability for deeper analysis by processing and mapping trends, especially geographic locations. Deeper insight means more effective solutions.
While such systems won’t necessarily end crime or eliminate public safety hazards, they do help engineers, analysts and other professionals gain clear insight and provide more efficient response. Coupled with various programs, it can provide recommendations and issues reports using graphs, charts and maps. It’s even possible to overlay a newer GIS map over an older mapping example of the same area to determine geological changes.
Other applications include using GIS to study specific events like arson or traffic collisions to look for patterns. This help with prevention countermeasures as well as enforcement. Such systems are being used large metropolitan areas to coordinate police, fire and rescue teams to streamline they way they work and cut costs without sacrificing service.
Public safety concerns aren’t just for big city dwellers. Since threats don’t only exist in busy streets, cities of every size and even rural areas are looking to technology to help them improve the way they serve and protect residents and visitors alike.
Author: Andy Quayle
Andy was born in the Isle of Man and currently lives in Pittsburgh.
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