The federal government released sensitive data containing critical infrastructure points to authorities in Colorado to help the state make better informed decisions when protecting its infrastructure and communities, reported NextGov.
The Homeland Security Infrastructure Program (HSIP) is a collection of about 500 geographic layers that include information like the location of power plants, water pumps and bridges containing utility lines. The data set is managed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the U.S. Geological Survey. The release of the sensitive infrastructure data comes after Colorado wildfires have burned through more than 18,500 acres of land throughout the past two weeks.
The full HSIP data set is only available to state responders when federal disasters are declared. By combining HSIP data, live weather reports and other data feeds, state responders are able to determine which state resources are of greatest value and make appropriate decisions, said Russ Johnson, global director for public safety at Esri, reported NextGov. “The state is using HSIP data to fuse it with the [fire] perimeter data to understand what the impact and the potential impact on infrastructure could be,” Johnson said. “The HSIP data is very valuable when combined with this real-time information.”
Release of HSIP data is also intended to help responders make decisions faster. Before the advent of smartphones and conglomerated mobile data, collecting information was more tedious, Johnson said. In the summer of 1988, Johnson was a U.S. Forest Service operations chief responding to the record-breaking fires in Yellowstone National Park. After scouting the fire from the air each morning, scouts would return to a central coordination center and then information could be gathered by those who needed it.
Allowing Colorado state responders to have 500 layers of geographic data paired with real-time data feeds accessible by a smartphone is a much faster and more efficient solution than what was available 24 years ago during those fires.