Geographical Information System technology is proving to be a popular tool in the visualisation of crime and accident data.
Prior to the deployment of Graphical Information Solutions (GIS), many emergency services had to rely on homemade standalone database programmes, or even paper-based systems. But as the technology has developed and grown, individuals within brigades were trusted with the smooth running of the systems.
Initially, these systems tended to be off the shelf GIS packages taking their data from home built databases, which were not specifically designed for fire, ambulance or police applications. Today, specialist geospatial data management companies provide tailored solutions specifically aimed at the tasks undertaken by the individual emergency service.
‘In terms of efficiencies, it is difficult to say what the overall impact is,’ says John Richardson, marketing manager at Innogistic. ‘But it is widely accepted that GIS has made a vast contribution to the provision of emergency services across the world.’
He cites a recent study undertaken by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, following the implementation of a Community Fire Risk MIS (CFRMIS) mobile Fire Safety data gathering solution from Innogistic, which reported an across the board 15% improvement in productivity.
Richardson says clients are predominantly Fire Services, although they do have some police force customers as well.
‘Our Fire Service customers will use their GIS in several ways,’ he says. ‘Firstly, they use it in conjunction with FSEC, which is a tool we created for CLG to help brigades plan and deploy their resources to give the best possible emergency coverage in their area.’
So, a brigade would use a GIS in conjunction with the company’s own CFRMIS Technical & Community Fire Safety Management system to identify buildings or areas of particular risk, or those who are not compliant with Fire safety legislation.
‘Technical Fire Safety is about reducing the level of risk in a public access building and ensuring compliance with fire safety regulations, so using GIS will help identify these buildings or those in proximity that may be at risk,’ he adds.
More recently, Richardson says crews have been using a CFRMIS Operational Intelligence Module that gathers, records and serves information on the risks a fire crew may face when tackling a blaze at any particular building.
‘Being able to illustrate and access this data via a GIS means that fire crews can be prepared for that risk prior to tackling the fire as well as being aware of any other potential risks in adjacent buildings,’ he adds.
Innogistic has also developed a solution called CARS for accident recording and analysis, which enables the recording and validation of Road Traffic Collisions (RTC) data from the National Collision Report.
‘Using GIS to visualise the locality, frequency and seriousness of RTCs on a GIS enables the identification of accident “hotspots” that may require remedial work, new road safety features or warning signs,’ adds Richardson. ‘It can also identify clusters or patterns, which will also help to identify where safety work needs to be undertaken.’
Over at British Transport Police, force information manager Richard Smith uses ERDAS APOLLO to serve up both aerial imagery and vector mapping with OS Mastermap, while MetaCarta helps by looking for geographic names within emails and reports before showing them on a map.
‘Currently on the wireless part, we deploy mapping on a piecemeal basis to PDA devices, to give officers the ability to actually put in the location and pull that up on an ordinance survey map on the PDA,’ he adds. ‘So, Apollo and the Spatial Tech side of things is assisting us in serving that data up to give additional functionality to the PDA.’
Looking to the future, Smith believes this could be helpful with situations like trespassing on railways where people have gone through the wire fencing.
‘We intend to have the ability for an officer to locate that point on his PDA and send it back to the database in almost real-time,’ he adds. ‘Looking beyond that, we will then have the ability to share this with other organisations. Once you have that information, if you think about responding to a fatality on the railway, then you know if there’s a potential access point, and that’s the flip side for the future.’