News & Notes

Core Information Needs for the Public During Wildfires

In the past 30 days, many wildfires have impacted populated areas across the West (see InciWeb for incident details and a quick map of all current incidents). NAPSG Foundation, in conjunction with the Esri Disaster Response Program, has been supporting public safety agencies with best practices for Public Information Maps. This post is a synopsis provided to help agencies get better prepared before the next disaster strikes. The blog is focused on fire incidents, but the same principals apply to most types of disasters.

Screenshot of the Mariposa County Public Information Map on August 7th, 2018

Screenshot of the Mariposa County Public Information Map on August 7th, 2018

Core Information Needs

In our recent pilot project (Core Information Guidelines*) and through discussions with agencies in South Carolina and Colorado, stakeholders have identified some common core information needs for the public:

  • Evacuation Areas (Orders and Advisory / Pre-evacuation)
  • Open Shelters
  • Road Closures
  • Hazard Areas








These are the key pieces of information that the public needs for situational awareness during the Response phase – and they want to see this information on a map! One of the biggest challenges facing public safety agencies is their ability to share clear, concise information during early phases of disaster response. They often resort to releasing long lists of evacuation areas using colloquial place names and street names, which can be very confusing for the public. Below are some steps other agencies have taken to mitigate this universal problem.


Agencies are most likely to be successful if they prepare their maps in advance during the preparedness phase. Here are some tips that we think can help:

  1. Pre-planning: Pre-plan and design your evacuation areas wherever possible. They should have sensible boundaries that do not cut through properties or isolated roads.
  2. Practice: Use simple tools for changing the status of evacuation areas, and make sure these update in real-time on public facing maps. Practice this process in exercises.
  3. Clarity: Keep maps simple and with clear instructions for the public. Use intuitive symbology without too many colors on the map. Let the public know who created the map and how often it will update (see more tips from Google Search Liason for increasing traffic to your maps).
  4. Focus on the positive: “Where should people go for safety and resources?” Focusing on the hazard (e.g., wildfire perimeter) can be distracting, and hazard information is often out of date.
  5. Performance: Make sure your maps have capacity to scale with a high number of viewers (e.g., host services, web maps, and apps on elastic cloud infrastructure) and that it will work on mobile devices.


Here are some examples of Public Information Maps (PIMs) that are live and dynamic as of August 9th 2018:

We especially like maps that are available 24 hours a day/7 days a week and are embedded in agency websites. These maps are ready to go as soon as a forecast is released or soon after a no-notice event occurs, allowing you to get the right information out to the public quickly. This can also help thwart misinformation on social media and provides news media with a consistent source of information that can help amplify your message.

City of Redding Public Information Map as of August 7th, 2018 AM.

City of Redding Public Information Map as of August 7th, 2018 AM.

Get Started

We know that this can be a challenging process involving more than just technology, and it needs support from the wider public safety team. Please let us know if NAPSG Foundation can help you be more prepared and have important conversations with your public information office and other key emergency management staff (Work With Us). If you are a GIS Specialist looking to support your agency with public information maps, see this GIS Technical Implementation Guide* (especially the Response / Outbound Engagement Section).

*This Guideline was produced with support from the US Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), agreement number HSHQDC-16-C-B0016

See our GIS Technical Guidance document for more information

See our GIS Technical Guidance document for next steps 


New USNG Map Book Template Available

We are pleased to announce the release of a US National Grid (USNG) Map Book template for ArcGIS Pro. At this time, we are looking for your feedback as this is a new tool for GIS Specialists to produce paper and PDF maps. This ArcGIS Pro template is meant to be a starting point for your map book projects, and it is based on best practices and earlier tutorials by the USNG National Implementation Center (TUNIC) at Delta State University. This does not replace previous templates created in ArcMap, but is a new experimental approach to making map books. We will continue to refine this template and work with other organizations to make improvements over time. Please send us your feedback at!

Download from

ArcGIS Pro Task for creating a US National Grid Map Book.

Example Map created by Johns Hopkins University GIS for EM Student, Ayankunle Adesigbin.

NAPSG Foundation at the Esri User Conference

The 2018 Esri User Conference begins this Saturday in San Diego. Paul Doherty, Program Manager, will be representing NAPSG Foundation, and he will be available to answer questions and share resources in the following locations:

  • Saturday & Sunday: The National Security and Public Safety Summit
  • Tuesday–Thursday: NAPSG Foundation Booth — The Esri User Conference Exhibition Hall in the Public Safety Neighborhood, directly across from the Exhibit Hall B1 sign – Booth P1 at the Public Safety Kiosk. Please stop by the booth to show us what you are working on and discuss best practices.
  • Tuesday: The FEMA Special Interest Group Meeting Room: SDCC – 29B from 11:30am-12:30pm
  • Wednesday: Intelligence Led Decision Making for Flood Planning and Operations Room: Demo Theater 10 from 2:30-3:15pm
  • Various other events and presentations listed here: The Essential List for Public Safety Attendees @ 2018 Esri UC

We will be prepared to discuss NAPSG Foundation resources and events, especially the newly released Core Information Guideline. The purpose of this Guideline is to provide first responders and decision makers with a standardized framework for Core Operational Information in support of flood and other hazards.

This will be a great opportunity to reconnect with old friends and network across the Public Safety GIS Community. We look forward to hearing what you have learned and put into practice in 2018. See you there!

Paul Doherty – NAPSG Foundation, Program Manager

Save the Date: SARGIS10

The NAPSG Foundation Search & Rescue (SAR) Working Group is pleased to announce our 10th Annual SAR and GIS Workshop! Join us for this annual opportunity that brings together professionals from diverse backgrounds, “so that others may live.”

  • What is SAR? Search and Rescue, with a focus on missing person search operations and wide area search post-disaster.
  • What is GIS? Geographic Information Systems – “data you can see on map”.

Target Audience
The primary audience will be SAR Personnel and GIS Specialists who are interested in Public Safety. We especially encourage National Park Service, FEMA USAR, and Mountain Rescue Association Team members to join us for this no-cost workshop!

October 25 – 27, 2018

West Valley College, Saratoga, CA (USNG – 10SEG87452481)

Registration Now Available!


See the event proceedings from SARGIS9. To find out more about SARGIS and the SAR Working Group, use this interactive Cascade Story Map website.

Firehouse Magazine: How NAPSG helps first responders in times of need

April 2, 2018

In this month’s edition, Firehouse Magazine posted an article on how NAPSG Foundation helps first responders during complex incidents and disasters by providing GIS-based field information and situational awareness tools. Chief Charles Werner, a member of NAPSG Foundation’s Board of Directors, writes about achieving actionable levels of situational awareness.

See entire article – Fire Technology: NAPSG in Action

Participate and Inform Our Nation’s Emergency Communications Policies, Programs, and Funding

February 19, 2018

Your agency’s SAFECOM Nationwide Survey response is needed to inform our Nation’s emergency communications policies, programs, and funding!

Have you taken the opportunity to make your voice heard? 

SAFECOM and the Department of Homeland Security Office of Emergency Communications want to hear from you.  We’ve launched the SAFECOM Nationwide Survey to get feedback from law enforcement, fire and rescue, emergency medical services, dispatchers and emergency managers around the nation at all levels of government.  Whether you’re from a state, local, tribal, territorial or federal organization, we want to know how we can help improve emergency communications nationwide. We know that no one likes to take surveys, but the video provided at the link below demonstrates why this one is so important:  The survey closes February 23, if you have any questions please reach out to the dedicated helpdesk at or 1 (833) 723-3712.

Your input will be used to:

  • Identify gaps in funding and capability improvements
  • Raise national awareness on emergency communications
  • Build industry knowledge by capturing reliable data
  • Influence public policy by informing decision-makers
  • Identify essential capabilities and capability gaps
  • Develop additional training and other resources
  • Provide a validated national perspective on emergency communication capacity


NAPSG partners with IAFC and Esri to deploy apps for Texas & Florida Hurricane Responders

January 9, 2018

The National Alliance for Public Safety GIS (NAPSG) Foundation, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and Esri partnered to deploy an application that was used by a team from Florida sent to Texas with the purpose of collecting critical data in order to assist responders on the ground with search and rescue as well as damage assessment efforts. The information collected by the team was used to develop a “Commander’s View Dashboard” to assist responders with real-time decision making on the ground, which allows for more efficient use of resources and improved safety and incident management.

“The purpose was to provide capabilities for individual responders to document individual searches, photographic, geo-coded information on victim contact and any other information that needed to be captured,” said Tommy Hicks, IAFC’s chief programs & technology officer and assistant executive director.

To read the entire article posted on IAFC’s blog, click here.

Available Now! NMATE After-Action Report & Guidance on Resource Management Dashboard

January 4, 2018

The National Alliance for Public Safety GIS (NAPSG) Foundation is pleased to share that the National Mutual Aid Technology Exercise After-Action Report and the Guidance on Resource Management Dashboards have been finalized and released. These resources are intended for use by local, state, tribal, territorial, and federal agencies, as well as organizations nationwide. Both resources are available for download and online access here.

We would like to thank our partners for the efforts they contributed over the past year that have made all this possible. The NAPSG Foundation, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), and several components of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are grateful for the invaluable contributions of time and expertise that the following agencies and organizations contributed in the planning, design, and conduct of the National Mutual Aid Technology Exercise, which was held on June 28-29, 2017, at the FEMA headquarters in Washington, DC.

Agency or Organization

Alabama National Guard
American Water Works Association
California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services
City of Nashua, NH Office of Emergency Management
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Illinois Mutual Aid Box Alarm System
International Association of Fire Chiefs
National Emergency Management Association/EMAC
National Preparedness Directorate
National States Geographic Information Council
New Hampshire National Guard
Office of the Chief Information Officer
Office of the Chief Information Officer/National Information Exchange Model
U.S. Department of Agriculture/U.S. Forest Service
U.S. Department of Homeland Security

The NAPSG Foundation, DHS S&T, and FEMA appreciate the ongoing commitment by the homeland security/public safety and GIS community as we work together to solve key challenges with mutual aid technology, improve geospatial preparedness, and increase effectiveness in changing outcomes for survivors.

NAPSG Foundation cited on GeoCONOPS in Trajectory Magazine

November 17, 2017

The article titled “Roadmap for Nationwide Geospatial Data Sharingwas featured on Trajectory, the official magazine of USGIF. It discusses the importance of using GeoCONOPS as a reliable source to support homeland security, public safety, and emergency management.

“GeoCONOPS, overseen by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Geospatial Management Office (GMO), is a strategic roadmap for national, state, local, private sector, and academic stakeholders to coordinate geospatial information, share data and tradecraft, and communicate in support of homeland security, public safety, and emergency management”, according to the article.

Rebecca Harned, Director, National & Federal for the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS (NAPSG) Foundation, said “if effective, [GeoCONOPS] is really being used to support preparedness activities—planning, exercises. It’s not something you want to try to access for the first time when the ‘big one’ hits.”

Read this article

Leaders in the SAR field debrief after Hurricane Irma

November 3, 2017

Hurricane Irma SAR GIS Hot Wash & Workshop

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), Florida Fire Chiefs Association, Florida State Fire Marshal, and the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS Foundation met on November 3rd at the Orange County Fire Rescue Division Headquarters for the Hurricane Irma SAR GIS Hot Wash & Workshop.

This workshop provided an opportunity to debrief on lessons learned from just-in-time training and the use of field information collection tools and incident commander dashboards for supporting SAR and ESF4/9 mutual aid during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Additionally, this workshop focused on gathering feedback from those who received training and access to the suite of tools provided by the IAFC and NAPSG Foundation in an effort to inform their evolution and better address the core requirements identified to support their critical missions.

View workshop materials available here. To learn more about the NAPSG Foundation SAR GIS Working Group, visit: