Getting emergency resources out in the field ready to act instead of idle at base is a growing trend in response management. Knowing where to locate those resources is the key to driving greater cost-savings while reducing reaction times. Next-gen response systems will help achieve these goals.

There is a move among emergency services to replace traditional station-centric emergency response processes with a proactive dynamic response model, where resources are deployed in the community ready to respond, rather than sitting at a base station waiting for events to happen.

There’s the potential to combine multiple technologies – 3D data, indoor routing, even virtual reality and others – to improve the speed, accuracy and safety of our emergency response systems.

Globally, the field of urban mapping is rapidly changing. Just a few years ago, it was sufficient to have your community charted in only two dimensions, with features such as roads and building footprints known on the x, y coordinates. What has been missing is the accuracy provided by a z coordinate.

Today, increasingly high-density city construction – combined with Australia’s large geographic distances and relatively small population – is driving greater need for more accurate emergency response systems, leveraging wireless technology and 3D visualisation to ensure faster and more effective action.

The reality is that emergency response has always existed in a world of three dimensions, where roads go up and down, hills and buildings have shapes, heights and volumes, and many built structures feature complex interiors. But responders have been asked to work as if the world was a 2D environment.

With the proliferation of mobile phone and internet networks, it’s only recently that these technologies have provided the context for new applications built around location data.

In Australia, the ability to build on past technology investments – such as digital radio networks – is considered central to extending new response capabilities, and we are seeing a transition to these systems away from the old analogue technology. 

Parallel to a growing awareness of some of these technologies within the public domain, public safety professionals are being challenged to map, understand and analyse their communities in three dimensions. As a response, 3D applications are becoming more common.

There’s significant potential for the use of technologies like indoor routing to assist with emergency response in large facilities like shopping centres and sports precincts.

The public outcry and emergency response demand for improved location accuracy can motivate elected representatives and policy makers to provide the necessary resources to migrate outdated analogue call-taking systems to digital platforms.

Once the decision to convert from 2D to 3D GIS is made, numerous valuable solutions become possible, from realistic visualisations to more comprehensive planning and response activities surrounding 3D environments, buildings and floor plans.

Adding z-axis data to existing x, y coordinates improves location accuracy and makes indoor routing data possible. This vertical coordinate data system uses linear measurements that represent heights above sea level as positive values and depths as negative values.

A likely scenario of how this technology would be applied is in rapidly identifying the location of a person requiring medical assistance who has collapsed in a large shopping complex.

The emergency team would already be within the vicinity because resources would have been allocated according to probable demand at that time of the day, and a track record of incident data had already helped predict when an incident would most likely occur.

The z coordinate data would direct responders to the correct floor and ensure faster treatment than relying on traditional 2D information or on-site directories.

Public safety officials around the world are looking at using z-axis data as a means of improving location identification. When combined with other technologies that identify the location of wireless devices – such as Bluetooth, low-energy beacons and wifi signals – the possibility of accurately locating mobile callers for emergencies increases.

What’s more, by better understanding the location of where callers are calling from, the information can be fed back into the dynamic response model to further improve pre-positioning of resources.

But for those organisations facing the pressure to transform, such as emergency services and law enforcement, what can they do to transition to this kind of next-generation response system?

Building on top of existing technology infrastructure – such as Australia’s digital radio system – is a start. Enhancing this core capability with a location-based analytics platform incorporating 3D and mobile data can amplify its effectiveness, and help emergency response teams deliver faster, more cost-effective outcomes for the community.

Call 1800 870 750 to speak to an Esri Australia Emergency Services specialist, or send us an email.

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About the Author

Mike King profile image
Mike King
Former criminal investigator and chief
Former criminal investigator, global public safety expert and one of the world's leading advocates of GIS technology for law enforcement.

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