GIS – a necessary public safety tool

valerie-grantBy: Valrie Grant

Managing Director


Every nation strives to protect and secure its citizens, natural resources, assets, and way of life. With increasing threats, public safety organizations are experiencing a new level of pressure to sustain critical public services. Many public safety organizations have as their mission to enhance the quality of life, safety and security of the communities they serve. These professionals strive to earn the trust, confidence and respect of their community. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has been helping public safety personnel worldwide to make more informed decisions in carrying out their missions.

Geographic information provides an intuitive and complete view of data for all public safety organizations including law enforcement, emergency medical services, fire services and disaster management.

It is critical that emergency response organizations direct their limited resources to where they can do the most good. Intelligently dispatched first responders and optimized supply routes using powerful geographic analysis and visualization, will make the job more effective. For example, GIS helps emergency personnel find the best sites for shelters and incident command posts while constantly keeping an eye on the situation with live data feeds from the field.

When a disaster strikes, knowing what you need and how to find it can be the key factor that saves lives, resources, and critical infrastructure. GIS can help with all phases of disaster management, from developing mitigation plans to managing limited resources in the midst of chaos and prioritizing recovery and rehabilitation efforts thereafter.

GIS is essential in 911 call routing, identifying the location of the emergency and ensuring that first responders get to the right incident in good time. Additionally, GIS is helping police departments analyse crime patterns and thus being better able to determine the most appropriate policing strategies. These systems are being used to help the police ask questions based on various scenarios and build an accurate picture of what’s happening in the community. This results in better and more systematic identification of the policing needs and ultimately more effective police departments.

Around the world, fire departments of every size use GIS to transform the way they manage their activities. They gather reliable, actionable information that fire fighters can access anytime, anywhere. GIS improves their planning and collaboration thus enabling faster decision-making for a safer response. They recognize that knowing which fire hydrant is working should not be a multiple choice question and that it doesn’t have to be with authoritative data. The result is better service and safer communities.

Any organization involved in public safety must embark on implementing and utilising GIS.  Public safety is about preventing loss of lives and damage to valuable property. Utilising a system that allows real-time integration of information and supports effective decision making significantly enhances that capability.

Public safety organizations within the Caribbean are turning to the power of GIS. These organizations include the disaster preparedness offices and ministries of national security. In Belize, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, the ministries of national security have all been recognizing the power of GIS in helping them fulfil their mandates. For example, the Ministry of National Security in Trinidad has just developed a state-of-the-art Enterprise GIS System aimed at enhancing its ability to protect and secure it citizens.

Maps are very critical to the planning of any activities or interventions in which geographical coverage is a critical component. No other information system utilises and combines maps with relevant multidimensional data more effectively than GIS. Combining geographic data with police report data and then displaying the information on a map is an effective way to analyze where, how and why crime occurs.GIS has been referred to on many occasions as a crime-fighting tool. Successful crime fighting requires comprehensive understanding of crime patterns and trends. Being able to decipher crime hot spots is significant in developing strategic and tactical approaches. Thus, location enabled data creates actionable intelligence for law enforcement officials. Geographically analyzing crime data is therefore transforming modern policing. It affords for a more proactive approach where through the use of data and analytics, issues are identified and resources are deployed to prevent or deter criminal activity within a community.

GIS is helping public safety organizations prevent loss of lives and enhancing security by providing the platform and tools for making informed decisions every day. It’s time for public safety organizations in Guyana to get onboard fully. Embracing GIS will improve public safety through better crime prevention strategies, improved response times, interagency data sharing, greater cooperation and collaboration that will ultimately lead to safer communities.

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