More News

Mapping information invaluable to fire department as well as others

image of fire hydrant GIS mapsWhen St. Augustine Fire Chief Carlos Aviles arrived on the scene of a large water main break near the intersection of May St. and San Marco Ave. a couple of weeks ago, he already knew his department’s ability to fight a fire in the area was not in jeopardy. It seems simple, but firefighters need water to fight a fire, and when there is a loss of water pressure because of a water line break the ability to fight a fire in the area may be diminished.

But Chief Aviles knew right away that all was ok because of the work of the city’s GIS mapping team. Just by looking at web-based maps available on his phone, the chief learned that the broken waterline served only one building, the St. Johns County Library, and that the water supply to all the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses was unaffected.

The city’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysts, Jeremy Berg and Jesse Potts,  worked with the utility divisions of the Public Works Department to develop the system that maps every water main, valve, and fire hydrant in the city with designations as to how many gallons-per-minute of water is available at every location. With the information available by mobile phone and laptops in every fire department vehicle, firefighters know the location of the closest hydrants with the most water flow before they arrive on the scene.

“This is an invaluable tool for us,” said Chief Aviles, “and it’s not something you can go buy. This information is tailor made just for the St. Augustine Fire Department and if there are changes or updates, they can be made immediately as needed because we are working with another city department, not a long distance vendor.”

In September when the fire department achieved the highest ISO rating possible, a Class 1 rating, Aviles was quick to credit other city departments that support the fire department, including Public Works. And while the best support is making sure water is available, this new GIS information tells firefighters where water is available, and how much.

Mike Cullum, Public Works Director, recognizes the value of GIS services in nearly every facet of the department’s work.

“In a city as old as St. Augustine there are a lot of in-ground utilities and our mapping capabilities make it possible to know what’s where.  This is critical information that is also useful to other departments.” said Cullum, adding “Even the city’s archeological resources are mapped by GIS.  This creates a more complete record of our city’s history.

“This is just another good example of one department using its expertise to build tools for another department. We are always looking for ways to help each other meet our common goals of service.” said Cullum.

To view the online interactive maps, click here.  For questions, contact Jeremy Berg at 904.209.4277 or send an email to