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Utilizing MapPoint for Emergency Services

Mike Mueller of the Lannon Fire Department in Wisconsin discusses the opportunities and challenges in implementing MapPoint 2004 for a small village's volunteer fire department

by Mike Mueller, Lannon Fire Department

In 2002, I added 2 items into my life. MapPoint 2002 and being a volunteer firefighter.

MapPoint was a freebie for me as I went to an Office XP launch event. I thought it was a very nice program and I learned how to use the various tools in the standard user interface. Not too much was applicable to what I did, however. I used it for figuring out where I was going and not too much more. I don't remember how I found out about, but I did visit it and I saw that there was so much more that this program could do. I tried out some of the samples, most notably the Tracking PF Changs in the Midwest database.

I joined the Lannon Fire Department in February. We are a volunteer department servicing a small village nestled inside a large village just outside of Milwaukee. The problem that this creates is that the residents are gone during the day, and we have several volunteers from the various companies in town who respond to calls who are not residents and therefore are not as well versed in the area. This is only compounded by the fact that we are in Wisconsin's fastest growing county and there is quite a few developement projects going on. I work during the day, and I am too far away myself to be of assistance. Or so I thought...

I looked again at the PF Changs database and started playing with it. I created a new table and imported all of the addresses from my village, and then I changed the form to look at my table. Looking good, but I knew that MapPoint could do more for me.

With much assistance from the MapPoint and Access help files and newsgroups, I learned how and added a lot to the form. Upon opening, it centers on a pushpin for the fire department. After pressing the search button, you can enter an address and it will add the 'target' pushpin and then recenter and zoom to the set. The next button added in the route for the quickest way there. I showed it to some of the officers and they were really liking this, but our department has a low budgeted (< $100k) and does not have the computer to do this. It took some time to think about how to overcome this, and while pondering this I expanded on the program to include more command buttons to route to the various hospitals.

I had one of those Eureka moments, and I added in one simple button that eliminated the problems: a print button. Instead of sending to a laser or inkjet printer, it sends it to the fax printer. I could now sit at work, hear the call on my pager, and have the directions sitting on the fax machine at the fire departmnet waiting for the responders. Wow! would be an understatement of what this means.

This is not the end though, as this database is constantly being updated and new features are constantly being added; data and MapPoint based. On the data side, we are incorporating information from the fire inspector's reports and haz-mat information courtesy of the DOT which shows isolation / evacuation distances for various substances. We now know who has what and then this information is available for MapPoint to create radii from a location (e.g. service station) to show where we need to close off for a particular situation (e.g. gas tanker spills or starts on fire).

The hope is to have a laptop in our next rescue vehicle which goes on every call we respond to. My hope is to be able to continue to learn what I can do with MP to better server the needs of the department. I already have a neighboring departments fire chief interest on how they could use this. Maybe in the next release...

Discuss this story in the forum.

Author: Mike Mueller
Mike Mueller works in software support and as the network administrator at a local church and school. Mike is also a volunteer firefighter, former Marine, proud father of five girls and enjoys MapPoint programming in his spare time.

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