Image: Mike Locatis, CIO of Colorado

As federal, state and local government officials prepared for the tens of thousands of visitors, dignitaries and activists who descended on Denver for the 2008 Democratic National Convention, one common IT component stood out: the geospatial technologies they used to map events and potential incidents.

The various government agencies responsible for overseeing the safety and protection of these participants -- including several Colorado agencies, the city and county of Denver, and federal agencies -- mapped critical information related to the weeklong event. It was very important to identify and analyze the locations of various operations to plan for the convention and to track where activities were occurring during it. Fortunately the convention proceeded very smoothly, and the city and state were able to shine.

A big benefit to convention planning was the coordination between the entities involved. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), FEMA, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Geological Survey, Colorado Governor's Office of Information Technology (OIT), Colorado departments of Public Health and Environment, Public Safety, Military and Veterans Affairs, and Transportation, and the city of Denver's geospatial technologies office (DenverGIS) and Public Works Department all exchanged information on each department's activities and data to support the event. FEMA convened coordination meetings to discuss geospatial activities and needs.

Since the convention was located in downtown Denver, the city's data was most critical, and DenverGIS provided key layers of geospatial data to the other entities. Additionally the NGA provided cartographic products representing daily scheduled events, road closures and other information. "The coordination that occurred helped everyone involved to work from a standard set of map products and, in most cases, was based on an existing foundation of relationships between the agencies involved," said Jon Gottsegen, state GIS coordinator with the OIT. "The NGA's assistance was invaluable to the other participants as well."

Another unique contribution from the NGA was a network link that displayed a live, ongoing map of activities and incidents such as demonstrations, crowd movements and police activities. This display was viewable through a Google Earth client and a secure link. In Colorado's state Emergency Operations Center (EOC), where state agencies convened to coordinate their response activities, non-GIS-trained operations staff monitored and displayed this dynamic map through Google Earth and even created KML (Google's native format) files of potential hot spots to share with the other jurisdictions. It became a regular piece of the situational awareness for the EOC and other state agencies.

Developing standard procedures and best practices across the state enterprise is vital to the success and cost-efficiency of geospatial technologies as with all information technologies in the state. This initiative powerfully demonstrates the benefit of such an inter-jurisdictional and cross-agency approach. In Colorado state government, we are pursuing an enterprise approach to GIS that aligns with our enterprise architecture development in IT overall. Also, this new application of Google Earth and ESRI technology can be easily reused in a wide range of situations.

Mike Locatis  | 
Mike Locatis is the CIO of Colorado.