Florida City Improves Homeland Security Efforts

West Palm Beach to simplify access to high-quality GIS data

by / July 9, 2003
WEST PALM BEACH-- West Palm Beach, Fla. has selected Autodesk MapGuide software to manage and distribute GIS information to all city employees and the general public. The city is using the software to improve the sharing of homeland security and emergency information among city departments, and to power a GIS Web site that allows visitors to select from more than 100 types of maps.

West Palm Beach has 11 departments that must communicate and share a wide variety of information ranging from hazardous materials sites, to parcel owner records and infrastructure management. Because the city's GIS department has just one staff person, the city required a mapping distribution solution that easily incorporates existing data without conversion, and is easy for non-technical users to understand and access.

"Using (Autodesk) MapGuide, I was able to make GIS information available citywide within 30 days of implementation -- about three months sooner than expected," said Nestor Navarro, GIS coordinator for the city. "As the city's only GIS employee, I needed a solution that would not require a significant investment of my time. The authoring tools and ability to publish city maps on the Internet allowed me to meet these challenges."

Prior to the implementation, West Palm Beach's departments typically shared GIS information using static paper maps, since data from one department's database usually didn't correspond with data from another department. Public access was limited and slow: Individuals had to request maps through the City Clerk's office, which then passed on the request to the GIS department. Owing to the time required for creating such maps, the public was charged a materials fee.

After the implementation, city departments not only began using GIS data for daily operations, such as emergency planning and permit issuance, they began providing the GIS department with richer information for the entire mapping system. When the GIS department first introduced online maps via its Web site, it offered 63 types. Today, more than 100 types are available. The public can now access these maps via the city's GIS Web site, without making appointments with the city clerk or paying fees.

West Palm Beach police and fire departments also use online maps for homeland security initiatives, put into place after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. For instance, police and fire officials use mapping data to identify sites that might be terrorist targets, as well as those containing hazardous materials.

Emergency officials in West Palm Beach also use online maps to plot evacuation and debris removal routes in the case of natural disasters such as hurricanes. The Florida Emergency Operations Center, which oversees statewide disaster response activities, will be using the software to provide information to the public on hurricane preparedness and response.
Miriam Jones Chief Copy Editor
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