"When you work in government, as we do, you have a commitment to service. We are committed to our residents, providing better information for the greater good to help keep them safe and informed."
Douglas County Deploys Dual COVID-19 Hubs to Inform and Safeguard the Local Community
Douglas County, Colorado, is using a new geographic information system (GIS) hub solution to help keep residents well-informed and safe against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.
The county's GIS services team is leading an effort to increase awareness of the emerging threat statewide, including to the 360,000 residents in their community. They are doing so with help from a new disaster response solution from Esri, which has served as a template to configure and deploy a variety of GIS solutions. This includes the creation of the COVID-19 Response Hub for the public and the internal COVID-19 Operational Hub for ongoing county operations.
"We're here to make a difference in the lives of the residents within our jurisdiction, and that's shared across our entire region of partner agencies," said Joel Hanson, Douglas County's GIS services manager. "When you work in government, as we do, you have a commitment to service. We are committed to our residents, providing better information for the greater good to help keep them safe and informed."
As COVID-19 spread across the country, Douglas County's GIS services team realized the challenges they were suddenly facing. On the verge of a national emergency that threatens the health and safety of their community, the team needed to quickly establish a plan of action and ramp up operational readiness, as the GIS services provider to statewide partner agencies.
Douglas County, Colorado.
In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Douglas County, Colorado, has deployed a COVID-19 Response Hub and Operational Hub, to help keep the community well informed and safe.
Douglas County, Colorado
Douglas County’s GIS team needed to act quickly to configure and deploy dual GIS hub solutions to help protect the health and safety of their local residents.
The COVID-19 Response Hub and Operations Hub provide users with near real-time data on interactive maps, dashboards, planning reports, and applications.
The new GIS hubs are giving residents a central, holistic view of the wide-ranging impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on their local community—and the critical resources available to them to safeguard against the threat.
To make matters even more challenging, standing up the new GIS hub solutions would need to be accomplished remotely amid the state's shelter-in-place guidelines.
"Going remote presented us with some challenges because our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is not set up to be virtual. It's actually set up to be the opposite. It's supposed to be close quarters and quick communication," said Nathan Wysocki, Douglas County senior GIS analyst. "To help us quickly transition from the physical processes we had in place, we've actually been able to use some of Esri's mobile tools behind the scenes—to get our users plugged into this new workflow. For example, we are using the Survey123 for ArcGIS app, which enables our EOC personnel to stay connected, tracking who's in and who's out on a daily basis."
As time was of the essence, the GIS team worked feverishly to provide GIS resources for their network of partner agencies, critical to helping safeguard the local community and entire state of Colorado.
"In the very early stages of this situation, our workflow was completely manual. We were personally processing individual active COVID-19 cases shared in Google docs by the state's health department, using ArcGIS to transform those statistics that could be easily visualized on a data dashboard," said Wysocki. "At that point, we didn't even know who was going to be running the show. We didn't know if it was going to be the state, the health department, or a federal agency such as FEMA.".
As the COVID-19 outbreak continued to spread across the country and threaten residents in Colorado, the GIS services team was brought into the local, regional, and statewide planning and response initiatives. The team was formally activated on March 11 as part of the EOC. They became an integral part of the statewide emergency response operation to help support the needs of their fellow operations staff, their residents, and partner agencies across Colorado.
They began adopting the ready-to-use datasets and applications available from Esri's COVID-19 GIS Hub solution template. Soon, they were building out customized interactive smart maps, data dashboards, planning reports, and additional resources. These components were then consolidated into their COVID-19 Operational Hub for county operations staff, and eventually to the public through their COVID-19 Response Hub.
"We had been tracking the Johns Hopkins University dashboard and interactive map pretty early on. We were trying to get awareness out there that this outbreak is heading our way. When we were finally activated, we immediately began building out ArcGIS Online groups, a myriad of solutions, and our GIS hubs," said Hanson. "In anticipation of what was to come, we started sharing our data with our partners at the North Central All-Hazards Region (NCR) and other local government agencies. They adopted our statewide dashboard as the dashboard of truth, so to speak, early on in this effort.”
After two days, the GIS team deployed their dual COVID-19 hub solutions using ArcGIS Online. Each is helping county leadership, operations staff, regional and statewide partners, and their residents visualize critical numbers, such as active cases, hospitalizations, and fatalities at a county and statewide scale.
Douglas County's new COVID-19 Response Hub has become the go-to information portal, providing local residents with a geospatial understanding of emerging health threats and impacts.
Mapping active cases, community spread, vulnerable populations, capacity, and available resources in near real time has been fundamental in keeping operational staff and residents well informed, situationally aware, and safe.
The hubs' interactive dashboards and smart maps are also driving increased awareness of evolving risk factors and new trends and patterns of the outbreak's growth. These data-driven insights are helping to reinforce the urgent need for extreme caution and adherence to state emergency orders to all residents.
"Our EOC was a bit overwhelmed at first, trying to figure out how to best respond to this type of situation. So, we've had to be very forward leaning in offering solutions to help our partners virtualize and consolidate information," said Hanson. "One of the main functions of our EOC's response right now is to keep everybody on the same page. The tools provided through ArcGIS Online to build our COVID-19 hubs are key components to creating that record of truth."
Sharing location-based data on interactive smart maps and dashboards—visualizing the scope, scale, and proliferation of the COVID-19 outbreak—is also helping prioritize Douglas County's emergency disaster response functions, in coordination with the State of Colorado. The county's hub has been widely adopted throughout the state and relied upon by partner agencies in the NCR as well as 56 counties across the state. Increased situational awareness and a common operating picture are also enabling stronger collaboration, communication, and coordination between county and state government agencies. This is helping to ensure that vital assets and resources are tracked and readily available to help protect lives.
"Standing up group sharing across the regions and deploying our hub solutions with ArcGIS Online has been a godsend. It has been so reliable and so robust, providing the technological capability to integrate across so many different divisions, connecting those relationships to get real visibility," said Hanson. "That level of collaboration, allowing us to exchange data across groups, and work from a common operating picture, has been critical to our results."