The Portage County GIS Department is offering area communities a new tool for fire departments and city planners.
At a meeting last month of the Portage/Summit Mayors, Managers, and Service Directors, Portage County GIS Coordinator Joe Reichlin gave an overview of a service it provided to Tallmadge, a map that shows where fires and EMS calls have taken place over a given period of time.
According to Tallmadge Mayor Dave Kline and Streetsboro Mayor Glenn Broska, the service was provided free to the cities.
Streetsboro has submitted data to the GIS department to have the mapping done, said Broska.
“Portage County was more than happy to do this,” he said. “That is really a great idea to have that put together like that. This is just another tool we can put in our bucket.”
Reichlin said the mapping could help plan routes, determine the most effective mutual aid responses and even plan new locations for new stations. The map shows which areas of town generate the highest volume of calls and enable fire departments to plan around that data.
“If you decided to put a fire house [in a specific spot], you could come up with a time of travel to those hotspots,” said Reichlin.
Kline said he’s using the data to help determine where to locate a new station and whether a joint fire district might make sense.
“If we can plug in Mogadore and Brimfield’s calls, there might be a joint fire district we can really pull together,” he said, although he said partnerships may be possible with other surrounding communities, as well. “This mapping resource will be a tool to help us decide what’s best thing to do.”
He said it may help decide whether Tallmadge should have two stations, one station or whether the department should try to combine forces with other nearby departments.
Reichlin also said the map enables administrators to see which kind of calls are coming from different areas of town.
Broska, a former fire captain in the Twinsburg Fire Department, said the data could help guide coverage, as well.
“It could help us as city managers,” he said. “We have our two nursing homes [in Streetsboro], and we spend an enormous amount of time there treating bumps and bruises, stuff that’s not truly 911 calls.”
He said that could help determine whether a nursing home should be asked to use a private ambulance service for certain types of incidents.
When a primary crew gets called to respond to a minor injury and another emergency is reported, a second crew has to come in to respond to the second call, he explained.
“That’s where it starts costing us overtime,” he said.
Broska also said it would help a lot when determining where to build a new station, but said one is not necessary at this time in Streetsboro.
Over time, he said the mapping will help paint a picture of how the community changes.
“At some point in time, the majority of calls may be in this specific area, but over a five-year period, you may notice the calls have transitioned over to another area,” he said.
Broska and Kline said the data can be mapped in neighboring communities to help determine where automatic mutual aid agreements make sense. Both cities have one in place; Tallmadge responds to Brimfield fire and EMS calls at the Cascades shopping area and a joint economic development district shared with Brimfield; and Streetsboro has an agreement stating that Hudson will respond to calls along Stone Road and other areas west of the railroad tracks on Route 303.
Broska said a closer mutual aid agreement or even a shared station someday may make sense somewhere along Route 43 at the north end of Streetsboro and south end of Aurora.
Reichlin said the Portage County GIS department developed the Location Based Response System by mapping out latitude and longitude for every address in Portage County.
“We had a couple vans drive the entire county, and they captured all the road data,” he said. “For every driveway, they got good address data for 911.”
He said the Tallmadge map included about 2,200 data points representing emergency calls for fire or EMS help.
Brian Kelly, the IT director for Portage County, said the mapping is a versatile tool.
“There are so many different uses,” he said. “We need to think about what kind of questions we want this data to answer for us.”
FB: The Gateway News/Bob Gaetjens