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The Information Age & Your Community

By Colliers Engineering & Design

gis bannerAs giant storms continue to cause widespread destruction, more and more local governments and utility companies are fostering communications with the community at large through the integration of web-based applications (websites, email, texting, social media, apps) and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). As technological service providers, these applications help monitor infrastructure repairs, construction, and progress. This technology enables service providers to disseminate information such as emergency road closings, evacuation procedures, shelter designations, and important emergency contact information.

Many providers have enhanced their websites to include an online public registration. Through the registration process, community members can list their name, residence location, phone number, email, and emergency contact information. In return, this information is stored geospatially, enabling the service provider to select registered members based on their residence location and provide them with detailed notifications of incidents taking place around their location. Notifications such as water main breaks, road construction detours, and evacuation requirements can be sent via cellphone apps, texting, email, social media, and/or voice messaging.

Service provider websites can also serve as a means for community members to submit service requests.  By standardizing common service request issues, the community is able to select a service request such as pothole, tree down, or storm sewer overflow and send it directly to the service provider for attention. The appropriate supervisor of the incident can generate and distribute a work order to staff who will be responding to the incident.

The service provider is able to use data collected from the community to assist them in making decisions about managing and maintaining their infrastructure. Inspections using mobile GIS inspection applications can be reformed to storm water systems where storm sewer overflow requests are abundant. Collecting data associated with the condition of catch basins, depth of pipes, and pipe size, can be added to the GIS map layer representing the storm sewer system for even more accuracy. Condition and risk of failure analysis can also be handled within the GIS program, reporting storm water components requiring maintenance or reconstruction based on inspection data.gis map

In cases where storm related damage is experienced, infrastructure damage and repair information can be collected into the GIS program and reported directly to FEMA for reimbursement. This is a classic example of how GIS can streamline infrastructure repair and the preparation of required reporting, keeping a historic record of the repairs and costs. Recordkeeping about how situations were managed in the past can also help service providers make better, more informed decisions going forward. For more information on how GIS can assist with emergency responses, visit

Zitzman, Sue1773About the author: Suzanne M. Zitzman, GISP is a Principal Associate and Discipline Leader of GIS Services for Maser Consulting P.A., a multi-disciplined engineering firm with a national project portfolio. Ms. Zitzman has over 27 years of extensive GIS/GPS project management, design, and mapping experience in the planning and civil engineering fields. Her skills include various aspects of utilizing web-based geographic information systems involving zoning maps, tax maps, land development analysis, environmental features mapping, land use planning, and infrastructure management. Her experience includes training of in-house and municipal clients’ staff in ESRI ArcGIS and Autodesk products. She provides presentations in GIS applications to local planning boards and governing bodies. Ms. Zitzman previously held the private sector NJ State GIS Council seat providing GIS assistance in the startup of the state’s GIS program, NJGIN.

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