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Top 10 reasons you need GIS in your town!

Boomer Yancey


GIS(Geographic Information Systems) is a rapidly growing industry, expected to nearly double over the next five years. This comes as more and more towns and cities across the country are embracing it as an important part of their governing capabilities. Are you interested in GIS and how it can help your town? If you are reading this that’s likely the case. Here are the top 10 reasons you need GIS in your town today!


1) Your town is spatial so your data should be too!




It goes without saying that your town is spatially distributed. You need a way to manage that spatial aspect in your records as well. GIS is the obvious way to accomplish this. When your data is maintained in a spatial format you will be able to quickly visualize the various layers that you need to and make quick decisions with the best information available. You will be able to consider how different factors interact and how an action could impact other things.


We are not talking about those maps that you have tucked away in that giant cabinet in the corner of your records room either. Modern spatial data is maintained in sophisticated relational databases. Housing your data digitally in a spatial format will affect everything that you do and will open new doors to what you and your town are capable of achieving. You will be able to pick a given area of your town and quickly provide highly detailed customized reports and data visualizations, everything that you will need to make those high-level decisions with confidence!


2) Crowdsource your data!





Sure, this might make you nervous to read, but with GIS you can absolutely rely on your community to provide data to you. Imagine all the information about your town that your citizens see every day, but you don’t know about or don’t have the resources to document. Crowdsourcing can solve both issues by giving your citizens the capability to find, identify, document, and submit this data directly to your team.


Using your GIS and spatial datasets to build public facing mobile applications can provide your town the means to do just that. This application could allow your citizens to use their smartphones to take geotagged pictures of everyday issues like potholes, downed trees, broken or missing signs, and so on. Provide them a space for a few notes and a submit button and you are on your way. The workflow can send the data to your technician in the office to be checked for appropriateness and duplication and then onto the appropriate person to fix the issue. Your field personnel can have the information provided directly to a table with all information and directions to the location included. When finished they can mark the project complete and move on.


3) Improve your decision making!






You are making decisions that affect your entire community, so it is vitally important that you have the best information available to you in a form that you can quickly understand. GIS has you covered. Thanks to the ways GIS can overlay, compare, and analyze information you will always be able to get just the data that you need to answer your questions and presented in a visually format that is quickly and easily understood by anyone who has ever used a map.

Would you like to have a detailed assessment of how that rezoning proposal will change neighborhoods, how the new fast food restaurant applying for a building permit will impact traffic on Main Street, or how a new business opening downtown will impact the availability of parking and where more could be quickly added. These are all things that someone trained in the use of GIS could provide.

4) Plan out events and emergency responses better!





Special events are some of the things that can make your town stand out amongst the crowd. You are rightfully proud of your Oktoberfest celebration, the yearly football game among crosstown rivals and fills the house each year, and the states best 4th of July fireworks celebration. As great as these events are for your town, they can present logistical nightmares to get the mass of people in and out while providing them the best experience possible. If you have a GIS implemented, planning for these events become much easier. You can visualize and analyze traffic patterns and parking as you make changes to available routes. See how the plans are going to affect the situation on the ground and formulate the best possible plan.


While events can strain your infrastructure, they do provide you with a strictly known attribute; when emergencies do not give you that benefit. Instead, they surprise you. They pop up when you least expect it and often at the worst possible moments. However, GIS can help you to plan for these events so that you are prepared as possible when it does happen. What roads should be closed if a structure fire erupts on a given street? What areas of the town are most likely to flood in a 100-year storm and where could barricades best be utilized? Where should they be stored and how can they be quickly deployed? Where are hazardous material stored, what are they? With GIS you can identify these events ahead of time and formulate plans that answer these questions. Those plans can be stored along with the GIS and automatically provided to first responders when the time comes.

5) Engage your citizens!





Providing data isn’t the only way that your citizens can interact and directly benefit from having a GIS available to them. Through development of public facing mobile and web applications and dashboards you can provide important information to your citizens directly and with the supporting data, visualizations, and mapping that helped you to make those decisions in the first place. Provide the traffic and parking plan for the 4th of July celebration in the app and they can know what to expect ahead of time. When a road closes for maintenance or an emergency they can be notified immediately and plan for taking an alternative route.


Using the location information capabilities of smartphone and web browsers you can push important information to people based solely on their location. There is going to be a water outage for some specific streets. Is the trash service going to be late today? When will leaf pickup services be available on my street? That information can be quickly passed to just those who will be affected. These are all simple issues that pop up every day in towns across the country, but with GIS you can make life a little easier for your citizens and they will certainly appreciate that!


6) Avoid costly mistakes!





Dangerous and expensive infrastructure lurk under your streets. Sewage, water, gas, and electrical lines crisscross under most American towns. It’s not difficult for exactly how these all run and where they are exactly. When you need to dig it can become a headache to identify where everything is and ensure that you don’t cause damage to any of these lines. With GIS you can keep all of this information in an easy to use format and quickly compare it to work plans to identify where conflicting infrastructure exists and plan for it. It is as simple as identifying the lines once and adding changes rather than needing to conduct a survey for each job that is planned.

Furthermore, you can use GIS to predict where problems are going to arise and fix them before they become an issue. You can use GIS to easily visualize where your oldest infrastructure exists, where elements that are known to fail at given ages are located, and use live data to narrow down where issues way be. When you can identify problems early, or even before they become problems, you will be able to avoid costly remediation issues that can arise.

7) Market your town!





Everyone knows that you are proud of your town, but with GIS you are going to be able to show it in ways that you haven’t thought about before. Use GIS to develop a virtual walking tour of your town. Show off the tree-lined streets, historical landmarks, and scenic vistas that make your town unique. It will convince people that they want to visit in person and help them plan that trip to ensure that they become regular visitors.

Businesses will enjoy having available demographic, zoning, and traffic data and you will be able to provide them with your own analysis for why their business would be a great fit for your town. Impress residents of other communities looking to relocate by incorporating real estate listings into your town GIS and include drone-captured showcases of those properties. Provide them with all of the important information that they need to make the move such as commuting times, local schools, crime statistics, first responder response times, etc.


8) Make your town safer!





GIS is going to give you the capability to make your town safer than ever before. Use it to ensure that the closest first-responders are immediately dispatched and routed to an emergency call as soon as it arrives. Plan for emergencies with greater detail than ever before and ensure that the plans are delivered to exactly who needs them when it is time to utilize them. Notify residents of nearby emergencies such as flooding, gas leaks, or wildfires in real time and provide them the optimal evacuation route to make sure that they can get out safely. Visualize and analyze crime patterns and police patrols to be sure that your resources are being deployed to where they need to be for the best results.


Keep citizens updated on road conditions throughout town. When will snow plows pass through their streets after the blizzard hits? Rely on them to provide you information on that icy hill that needs immediate attention. Plan for emergencies that you anticipate could arise. You will be able to provide the services you always have, but better information and communication will improve them greatly.


9) Reduce the paper!





GIS based mobile applications can be deployed into the field with your crews so that they have access to the most recent information and can update that information remotely. Nevermind the forms that you have needed to rely on for decades. There is no longer a need to fill out work orders for your workers to pick up and return to you. This can all be done digitally and delivered directly to the people who need it. The GIS will be able to track what work is pending and what is completed and direct your crews to the correct location. Your GIS will help you do away with those old forms and reduce the administrative resources that they tie up daily.


10) Leverage the enterprise!





Regardless of what specific issue your GIS is addressing, the most important aspect is that is allows for you to manage your enterprise database. Communication and information will be directed through predetermined workflows into the hands of the people who need them, and information can be automatically updated back to the system without the days it could have taken before. There will be less waste and more production.

You will be able to better evaluate how your departments are working and identify where things could be changed to create better efficiencies. Are the police patrols covering the areas where they are most needed with the least amount of overlap? Are your maintenance crews working as quickly as you would expect? Everyone will have access to the data that they need without needing to waste time trying to find it. Your town will run the way that it should!




GIS is truly a gamechanger when it comes to municipality administration. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to jump in without help. A trained and experienced GIS consultant can help you onto the right path, train staff, and save you time and money. If you have questions, contact Vector Geoanalytics, LLC for more information.

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