The Minneapolis Fire Department chose to deploy its own in-house GIS after seeing the benefits of using GIS as part of everyday fire service management.
"Once we started working with GIS, we recognized the ability of GIS to carry out tasks faster and with greater accuracy," says Todd Steinhiber, deputy chief, Minneapolis Fire Department. "GIS gives us a powerful means to store and view all types of information, organize it efficiently, and utilize a rich array of modeling and analysis tools. We are better equipped to prepare for events before they happen and to respond to emergencies when they occur. We’ll continue to extend the use of GIS to all aspects of our business. It’s an information platform that will evolve as our needs evolve."
"Once a fire department begins to understand the power and benefits of GIS technology, it often chooses to develop GIS skill and capability within the department, rather than depend on an often very busy citywide GIS department," says Russ Johnson, public safety industry manager, ESRI. "The ability of GIS to answer complex questions and communicate them visually is very powerful. This capability is invaluable for educating nonfire personnel, such as city councils, the public, and others, about why additional fire response assets are required, where certain fire codes should be implemented or other needs should be supplied, to provide an appropriate level of service."
The Minneapolis Fire Department serves the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota—which is composed of four districts—with approximately 450 firefighters assigned to 19 stations located throughout the city. Each station responds to calls within its own response area and may assist in responding to calls within a larger district. The Minneapolis Fire Department not only provides services for fighting fires but also emergency medical response, fire prevention, fire investigations, and emergency preparedness drills.
The Minneapolis Fire Department uses ArcGIS 9 for building, managing, and disseminating its spatial and tabular information using a robust, scalable, and fully integrated GIS architecture. This provides the ability to automate, integrate, and portray a diverse collection of information for incident preplanning, response, regulatory compliance, resource allocation, and much more.
In addition, the agency uses the leading industry solution FireView from ESRI business partner The Omega Group. FireView provides fire and emergency response agencies with mapping tools to help review existing deployment policies and develop new strategies. FireView integrates fire and emergency medical services data with GIS functionality so that agencies can easily perform tasks faster and with greater efficiency.
The Minneapolis Fire Department has had several GIS successes. Using ArcGIS, FireView, and consulting from Citygate Associates, LLC, the agency successfully adhered to its Standard of Response Coverage mandate, meeting benchmarks for timed response as laid out in the National Fire Protection Association 1710 Emergency Response Standard. Citygate conducted an assessment of risk and deployment coverage using color-coded maps displaying the varying degrees of fire danger throughout the city, fire station locations, and calibrated response times. Using advanced GIS analysis, it was determined that while the agency was meeting its mandate, instituting proposed cuts in fire stations and fire personnel would mean it would not be able to meet its mandate. This resulted in the proposed cuts not being carried out. Not only has the department been able to meet its benchmark obligations, it has been able to exceed them. The department’s goal is for the first company to arrive on scene within five minutes 90 percent of the time. In 2004, it met the goal 88 percent of the time. Its current average response time is 3 minutes and 38 seconds.
In addition, the agency developed a unique response application using ArcObjects within ArcGIS. Known as the Minneapolis I-Site application, it allows private building owners to subscribe to the new public/private initiative designed to better safeguard buildings, their occupants, and their contents. The application allows owners to provide all types of floor plans, building data, and other information that is stored in a city database and available for use in the event of an emergency. The additional information means that, in the event of a fire, accident, terrorist attack, or other emergency, firefighters, law enforcement officers, and other personnel can use the rich database to respond more quickly and accurately to assess incidents, set priorities, and carry out action plans.