Seeing the lay of the land
Project: Geospatial data sharing
Jurisdiction: Salt Lake County, Utah
Agency: Surveyor’s Office
Vendor: Atlanta-based TerraGo Technologies; Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI
Date began: Fall 2007
The Unified Fire Authority serves more than 375,000 residents in the Salt Lake County, Utah, area and depends on detailed maps of every inch of its territory to plan and respond to emergencies. Traditionally, the fire department maintained fire map books and atlases by hand, but as the county has grown, making maps the old-fashioned way had become cumbersome and inefficient.
So, last year the fire department asked the county Surveyor’s Office for help. The surveyor’s GIS staff maintains digital maps for all county departments, but it did not have a way to print map collections for the first responders. “They wanted hard copy; we wanted to maintain the data in digital files, but our existing applications didn’t produce the high-quality print we were looking for,” says Mark Miller, GIS coordinator.
The GIS department purchased software from Atlanta-based TerraGo Technologies to plug in to its existing GIS software from Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI to export maps in a format that can be opened with Adobe Reader software. In the GeoPDF format, users can view maps on their desktop computers, turn data layers on and off, search for attributes, display coordinates and type notes. They also can print the highly detailed maps to carry in the field.
Within days of installing the software, GIS staff began rolling out maps for the fire department. Users at each station and headquarters view the digital files on a computer and use software tools to locate map coordinates and measure distances. The fire trucks do not yet have laptops, so the maps are printed and distributed to crews to help navigate neighborhoods in emergencies. Crews can view or print just the area that their station typically responds to, as well as the entire valley if they are called to help other departments outside their service area. As the county continues to grow, the GIS department produces new digital maps regularly.
Now, other departments have begun requesting maps in the same format. “Police can plug latitude and longitude coordinates from a cell phone into a GeoPDF file and zoom to the location, greatly narrowing the field of where a suspect might be,” Miller says. “They can use the features and functions of a GeoPDF file whether they’re connected to the Internet or not, so they don’t have to be online to utilize mapping functions and navigation capabilities.”
By exporting the GIS data to the new format, the GIS department expands the use of the data beyond employees that are trained to create and edit maps. “It helps our GIS department push data out more efficiently and it means our geospatial data can benefit a lot more people,” Miller says.