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How Local Governments Can Use Location Intelligence to Optimize Emergency Management

November 30, 2018
By: Jason Holte

Preparation is essential for mitigating dangers to public health and, in extreme cases, people’s lives. Local governments are responsible for a myriad of community needs, but safety and emergency management are always their top priorities.

The CDC estimates that 48% of Americans are unprepared in the event of an emergency. This means that nearly half the country does not have any sort of emergency action plan or supply kit. Some may put together a first aid kit or set aside a few days worth of drinking water, but most people don’t spend much time thinking about emergency scenarios. This is one of the main reasons that local governments must be prepared with detailed and efficient emergency management plans.

Location intelligence is central to any local government’s ability to develop optimal emergency management strategies. This article will focus on how location intelligence optimizes planning for the four main areas of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.

Emergency management fire response

Emergency Management Logistics

The type of emergency your community could face is sometimes dependant on location and proximity to a threat. For example, communities located in the Gulf Coast of the United States have to be prepared for hurricanes, while communities in the Northeastern US must have emergency management plans for winter weather. Middle America requires safety plans for tornadoes, while the west coast must be prepared for earthquakes. Nearly all communities need to be prepared for floods, fire, infectious disease outbreaks, radiation leaks, chemical spills, and even bioterrorism.

With such a wide range of potential emergencies that local governments must be prepared for, emergency operation centers have to be ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice. Emergency management plans pull together the expertise of elected officials, police, fire, civil defense, and public health professionals, along with environmental, transportation, and hospital officials. Even members of the media play a role in emergency management. These sectors must have clear direction on what their role is, and should be able to easily communicate and collaborate with one another.

Without location data, it is extremely difficult to develop an accurate assessment of the types of hazards a community could face, as well as a complete understanding of who is at risk. A location intelligence platform helps emergency personnel pull disparate data together to develop plans that can be easily shared among key stakeholders.

Emergency Management Starts with Location Intelligence

The first step of any emergency management plan is identifying where populations are at the highest risk. A location intelligence platform clearly illustrates population size and proximity to potential threats like floods, wildfires, chemical spills, radiation accidents, and more. This basic knowledge allows planning committees to develop optimal plans at every stage of emergency management.

Here’s how a location intelligence platform supports the four main areas of emergency management:


  • Local data integration:

    Every community is spatially unique and requires a location intelligence platform that has accurate local data. It is also important that their platform allows them to add their own data on top of the data that already exists. For example, a local government should be able to visualize their own data layer showing where emergency equipment will be stored and the locations of hospitals and potential pop-up clinics. Officials will need to understand the distance of those assets from the populations they are meant to help.

  • Critical utility shut-off points:

    Shutting off certain utilities is sometimes a protective measure taken before an emergency strikes. Many people do not know how to manually shut off utilities like gas, electricity, and water at their homes, requiring officials to determine points where utilities can be shut down or scaled back to protect at-risk populations. Local governments can use location intelligence to add a data layer highlighting utility stations that serve potentially affected populations.

  • Communication:

    Proactive communication to at-risk populations before emergency strikes is often the best way to mitigate problems. Location intelligence platforms can be used together with media outlets to develop alert systems letting people know when it is time to evacuate and where they should go.


  • Evacuation plans:

    If a large-scale evacuation is necessary to protect a population, a location intelligence platform can help illustrate the best evacuation route and potential locations for refueling vehicles. This can be done by reviewing the available routes and locations of gas stations, and by determining whether roadways can handle increased traffic counts.

  • Supply storage:

    Local governments can use location intelligence to identify ideal locations for the storage of emergency supplies like food, drinking water, first-aid equipment, and clothing. A location intelligence platform can also help officials place sanitation and hygiene stations, as well as locations for special needs like medication and child care supplies. These storage areas should be close to the at-risk population and should be easy to distribute to designated areas when needed.


  • Supply distribution and emergency shelters:

    Supply distribution centers and emergency shelters are often paired together. Use location intelligence to identify ideal locations for buildings that could serve as makeshift shelters along with large-scale distribution hubs. Location intelligence illustrates areas that are less likely to be impacted by hazards that can also accommodate large amounts of people. A location intelligence platform can also help identify locations that are close enough for high concentrations of people to reach quickly in the event of an emergency.

  • Map routes for emergency responders:

    A strong emergency management plan will outline several routes that emergency responders can use to reach vulnerable populations. For example, if a bridge goes down or a piece of road is swept away, there must be an alternate route identified to allow first responders to help people as quickly as possible. A location intelligence platform helps facilitate the planning of these routes.


  • Damage assessment:

    Recovering from an emergency is a massive undertaking that begins with understanding the scope of the damages. A location intelligence platform allows local governments to visualize impacted areas and use property values to analyze the financial implications of an emergency.

  • Rebuilding:

    Government entities can use location intelligence to prioritize what resources and capabilities need to be rebuilt first, such as power stations and hospitals that serve the largest populations. With these priority tasks outlined, officials can then plan the subsequent phases of the recovery effort.

Ready to Learn More?

Click here to learn how the DMP platform provides local governments the location technology and data they need to develop robust emergency management plans. For a deeper dive on this topic, read our guide: How State and Local Governments Use GIS Technology to Improve Health and Human Services. You can also download our checklist to learn how Government Entities Can Use Location Technology to Take Action During a Public Health Crisis, or request a free copy of our government solution sheet.

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