As CIO of the Madison County, Ohio, Department of GIS and Information Technology, Rob Slane developed an advanced emergency management system that provides emergency personnel with critical data in near real time.

The Madison County Emergency Management Information System gives emergency personnel the exact location of 911 calls, and provides an interactive digital map with aerial and digital photographs of the geographic location from which the call was made. The award-winning GIS can also track severe weather, and model the location and characteristics of a hazardous chemical plume in the event of a spill or accident, then notify residents and businesses with automated, reverse 911 telephone calls.

What kind of information do emergency personnel receive from 911 calls?

When the call comes in, the address is displayed for the dispatcher at the PSAP [public safety answering point] on hid or her terminal. The mapping interface then takes that address and pinpoints it on a digital map.

With that you have the street center lines; the jurisdictions; an actual digital image of the house; the aerial photograph; and you have the ability to pull up oblique aerial photography, and can actually spin that house around and look at it from different angles.

You can measure area, height, distance -- that sort of thing. It's quite a bit of information right there in a matter of seconds for the dispatcher.

Can first responders see all that information upon receiving one 911 call?

They can if they have a notebook [computer] in their vehicle, the mobile version setup. Currently we don't have that in every single vehicle; it's been a funding issue getting the hardware.

The Health Department and Emergency Management directors -- those types of people -- have notebooks and the software loaded. It's not limited to first responders.

How does the weather tracking and chemical plume modeling work?

If you had some sort of hazardous chemical release, whoever arrives on the scene fires up our 911 GIS software. They're pinpointing their location -- the location of the release, the accident, the intersection -- that sort of thing.

Now they hit the live weather data, because with [the software], you need to start entering some information so it can model the plume: wind direction, speed, ambient temperature, precipitation, humidity.

Once that's done, [the application] creates the plume, and then the plume is dumped over into the GIS and plotted on the digital map. So now you see a good estimation of where that plume is going to go and whom it's going to affect.

Once you have that plume on the map, you can start looking at where you want to set your roadblocks so you don't have the public entering that plume. You're going to have the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] coming in from Columbus; somebody coming from Springfield, Ohio.

Once that's done, you have the ability to select all those addresses that are in the plume, within different levels of the plume or within a certain distance of the plume, and then you can launch reverse 911 calls.

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor