GIS in Public Safety

Wildland Fire Management

How GIS is Used in Wildland Fire Management

The following core capabilities can be enhanced using GIS technology enabling staff to more effectively carry out all types of tasks for supporting every kind of public safety emergency.

Planning
and Analysis
Data
Management
Field
Operations
Situational
Awareness

Planning and Analysis

GIS technology provides easy-to-use tools for maximizing all types of data for planning requirements in advance of an emergency. This allows wildfire responders to proactively mitigate against fire hazards. GIS stores spatial information in a digital mapping environment that allows fire managers to quickly select and view data that can influence fire behavior. The likelihood of wildfire ignitions can be predicted by locating historical fire locations and identifying potential ignition sources (e.g., power lines, roads, industrial areas, housing areas). Factors such as vegetation types, slopes, aspects, natural or man-made barriers, and historical weather patterns integrated and modeled to identify potential fire behavior. Additional actions, such as vegetation modification, fire prevention programs, and code compliance, can be planned and modeled using GIS.

Data Management

To achieve comprehensive wildfire preparedness and response, agencies must be able to manage diverse data stored in multiple information systems. GIS supplies a flexible information platform that enables full integration with other information systems. It takes advantage of a standards-based architecture for true interoperability. Wildfire agencies can store and analyze all types of data. They can also easily consume data from different sources as well as share data in a moment's notice. This empowers agencies to plan well ahead of an incident for a more effective response.

Field Operations

Today, fire-line personnel have access to intelligent maps—maps built using databases and powerful modeling capabilities—not only in the firehouse, but in the field. Mobile GIS provides first responders with detailed information when and where they need it for a faster and safer response. With little technical skill required, a GIS application on a vehicle-mounted computer, handheld PDA, or cell phone will provide detailed information to answer questions such as:

  • Where is the fire located?
  • What is the terrain and fuel type?
  • Where are the evacuation routes?
  • What are the hazards to responding units?
  • What are the values at risk?

Just as important, mobile GIS allows responders to send information back to incident commanders and emergency managers. This provides dynamic information exchange that enables flexible response that adjusts to ever-changing conditions on the ground.

Situational Awareness

Gaining an accurate, continuously updated understanding of events on the ground during wildland fire is paramount to effective suppression. GIS aids fire fighters by linking people, processes, and information together using geography. Live data feeds such current weather conditions and the location of on-scene and responding units can be synchronized and integrated with fire status, destroyed structures, and values at risk. This integrated map view supplies incident commanders and firefighters on the ground a comprehensive, real-time common operating picture.


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