For the first time, it is possible to provide efficient process and decision aids at short notice and adapted to the situation without major programming effort. This is particularly necessary for tasks that cannot be planned, such as COVID-19 testing.
Munich Fire Department Empowered COVID-19 Testing Responses with GIS
Home to over 1.4 million people and famous for its museums, centuries-old architecture, and the annual festival celebrations — the city of Munich is the capital of Bavaria, Germany. Serving as the firefighting authority is the Munich Fire Department, also known as "Branddirektion." The fire municipal is part of the district administration department of Munich. The department comprises of a professional fire brigade and 21 other volunteer fire brigades. The professional fire brigade maintains ten fire stations spread across the city to ensure ten-minute emergency assistance from any part of Munich.
In response to rising COVID-19 cases, on March 16, 2020, the Bavarian State Government declared a state of emergency. It was important to staff at the Munich Fire Department that they install rapid and precise support measures to curb the further spread of the virus.
Following the Bavarian State Government's declaration, Munich Fire Department staff began organizing several support measures such as creating reporting processes for COVID-19 diagnoses and track rising case numbers. Fire department staff also needed to open COVID-19 drive-in testing stations and operate mobile testing units for those who could not leave their home. To provide tests at home, staff also needed a resource to optimize their routes for rapid response. Balancing their normal workload with COVID-19 testing and data management, the scope of new assignments made it clear— a digital solution would empower staff efficiency.
Within days, the Munich Fire Department deployed a geographic information system (GIS) based workflow. Leveraging GIS technology, fire department staff collected reports on those suspected with COVID-19 and shared that information with the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians in Bavaria and general practitioners. Additionally, COVID-19 reports were uploaded into a preprogrammed database to automate test orders and referrals. This system then contacted patients with their test dates and location via telephone.
Equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) and test swabs, Aicher Ambulanz Union staff alongside Munich Fire Department staff operated the Theresienwiese drive-in COVID-19 testing site where patients were assigned. Upon arrival, patients received a card with a personal barcode, enabling them to get their results online within 24 to 48 hours. Testing staff used ArcGIS Collector, a mobile field data capture app, to track test results. The app allowed staff to share test results with both the patient and the health department for follow-up per the Infection Protection Law. For those who tested positive, their results were also shared with a doctor for follow-up at the same time.
GIS also empowered mobile test teams with optimized routes to reach those unable to visit a testing site. These teams leveraged ArcGIS Navigator, a professional mobile navigation app for Android and iOS that uses GIS software to route field workforce.
The effective use of GIS technology optimized the Munich Fire Department's COVID-19 testing process within a short timeframe. This effective process informed staff and created a targeted test response for Munich residents. Under the "at the right time in the right place" principle, GIS technology has made it possible to schedule and carry out around 200 tests per day from the Theresienwiese service center. Collected data also was used for dashboards providing a comprehensive picture to leaders of the changing situation, enabling the fire department for rapid and flexible response.
GIS was vital in overcoming bottlenecks, challenges, and reorganization efforts. Having accurate and up-to-date information allowed various emergency services to interact efficiently, saving valuable resources. The technology provided emergency services staff with transparency and easy use of the web-based applications, essential elements for a 2-shift operation.
Today, a modern IT infrastructure replaces the simple drawing-up of lists—with the ArcGIS Hub, all data is now located centrally in one place, ensuring loss-free linking.