GIS mapping can see inside buildings

Dustin Ensinger

January 10, 2014

Delaware County’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department is using technology to save taxpayer dollars and potentially save lives.

The GIS department, based out of Delaware County Auditor George Kaitsa’s office, is using its mapping technology to aid several other county departments, including the Sanitary Sewer Department, the Emergency Management Agency (EMA) and Emergency Communications.

One of the latest examples of that technology is the Critical 360 program, a partnership between GIS and the county’s first responders.

The program, paid for with a $17,000 grant from the state and monetary support from the Delaware County commissioners, has allowed the GIS department to take 360 degree photos of nearly every square inch of the the county’s six high schools and two Delaware Area Career Center buildings. The project took two summers and 6,000 photos to complete.

The information has been shared with the county’s EMA department, law enforcement officials and fire departments across the county to be used in emergency situations.

“It’s a good tool for large buildings that may be confusing,” said EMA Director Sean Miller. “You can capture hiding spots, things that would be a concern to law enforcement.”

The interactive building information can be easily accessed at a command center with or without an Internet connection.

While the program is a response to recent school shootings, very few counties have implemented similar systems.

“It’s definitely cutting edge,” said Annie Parsons, GIS director.

With the proliferation of cell phones, the GIS department is also playing a crucial role in assisting the county’s first responders and telecommunicators when 911 calls come in.

Through the GIS department, those answering 911 calls from cellphones can now pinpoint a location in the county. Brian Galligher, director of emergency communications, said the technology is a huge asset in the event that a caller is disoriented, unfamiliar with the area or perhaps a young child.

“More and more people are going towards cell phones,” he said. “It just make it more important.”

The GIS department’s efforts also might save the taxpayers of Delaware County some money. The department has teamed with the Sanitary Sewer Department to create an online database of all of the county’s sewer lines. Once complete, sanitary sewer officials will be able to click on a line and view the most recent video of the pipe and its condition.

Previously, the videos were stored on discs and it made for a time-consuming process to locate a specific video.

“Potentially it will save us some manpower and money in the long run,” said Mason Janczak, a staff engineer with the regional sewer district.