Philadelphia’s Public Safety G.I.S. Group Goes International


Senior G.I.S. Developer Paul Woodruff (left) and Public Safety G.I.S. Program Manager, U.S. Grant Ervin (right) demo the City’s Situation Awareness Portal

Over the past few years, the Philadelphia Police Department and other efforts in public safety have received well-deserved recognition for both the willingness and ability to leverage technology. This recognition has come locally from blogs and news outlets, highlighting such efforts as police officers’ use of Twitter.  The efforts have been highlighted nationally too. This past year, the the U.S. Conference of Mayors produced a video about the City’s coordinated GunStat effort.  On an international level, the public safety G.I.S. group won a “Special Achievement in G.I.S.” award from G.I.S. firm ESRI in July 2013. But the international recognition doesn’t stop there.

In the week prior to receiving the ESRI award, Public Safety G.I.S. Program Manager, U.S. Grant Ervin was demoing the City’s G.I.S. software at the National Security Conference. This demo caught the eye of officials from the South Korean government. The officials were so impressed, in fact, that they requested a visit to Philadelphia Police headquarters a few months later. After the officials had seen the software in action, Ervin received an invitation to speak at the National Disaster Management Institute Conference—in South Korea.

This Tuesday, Ervin will fly to South Korea with Senior G.I.S. Developer, Paul Woodruff.

In South Korea, Grant and Woodruff will demo the City’s Situation Awareness Portal. In a very high level overview, the portal integrates geospatial data with data from across City government and other agencies throughout the region. Different data can be viewed as “layers” on top of a map of a neighborhood, street—or the entire city—to predict and prepare for specific situations.

This technology could show how a storm might affect a certain region based on the number of electric lines, public transportation systems and the region’s relation to a body of water. A user could also see how a bomb threat might affect a neighborhood based on the population and structures located in the area. Heat maps paired with L&I  data could help firefighters or police officers to know about a building before they enter.

With over a thousand layers to choose from, Ervin figures the system’s only limitation is the imagination of the user. Such robust technology is only  possible through the constant maintenance and sharing of data across agencies. Once this data is shared, it becomes the G.I.S. team’s responsibility to find innovative ways to use the data. The team constantly pushes the limits to develop new applications.

If you come up with an idea, it’s not just going to get shot down. You get to go ahead and give it a shot. A lot of brainstorming goes on here. —Paul Woodruff, Senior G.I.S. Developer

With a few awards and a trip across the world, it seems that Ervin, Woodruff, and the team are getting the recognition they deserve. In addition to sharing Philadelphia’s outstanding technology in South Korea, let’s hope they can also convey the power of collaboration and creative freedom.

2 thoughts on “Philadelphia’s Public Safety G.I.S. Group Goes International

  1. Great Job Grant and Paul!
    As a career law enforcement officer, I am appreciative of your efforts to ensuring the safety of all Philadelphia.

  2. I wouldd like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in
    penning this blog. I am hoping to seee tthe same high-grade
    blog posts from yyou later on as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has inspired mme to get my very own site now 😉

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