A downloadable program developed through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) called Marplot is being utilized by the Harlan Fire Department as a way of mapping for response, planning and local operational tasks.
As a part of the CAMEO system of software applications used to plan for and respond to chemical emergencies, the program was developed by the EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to assist front-line chemical emergency planners and responders to access, store and evaluate information critical for developing emergency plans.
Fire Chief Linette Hutchison said Marplot is now being used by many fire departments across the country.
“We are mapping all our subscribers, who are located within a 5-mile radius of our station,” said Hutchison. “You can put this map up and build what is called layers. One layer may have all your hydrants, one layer may have all your buildings that have hazardous material such as the water and sewer plants and on and on.”
Hutchison said some of their subscribers never see the fire department and some of the addresses may be wrong.
“I got this idea wouldn’t it be interesting if we put all our subscribers in the program,” said Hutchison. “With Marplot, if it’s a valid street address, you can type that in and it will zoom you right to the spot where you’re supposed to be. You can click on that and it will pull up information for that address. We can find out the nearest water source, any special hazards around it, if it’s a house, mobile home, bridges that might not hold the fire truck — important things like that, which can make a difference when you are racing to a fire.”
Hutchison said Assistant Fire Chief James Billings and Lt. Geary Ferguson are now going from community to community where they have subscribers, pulling into driveways and actually “laying eyes” on the subscriber’s property.
“In the process of doing this, they are actually getting the latitude and longitude, the GPS readings for each location so we can actually double check on the map, because sometimes the streets may be off a little bit,” said Hutchison. “This is a good thing. This way we know what we are dealing with. This can save time and lives.”
Hutchison said they plan to use the same system for their building pre-plan.
“What we do is we take the big buildings we service in the city of Harlan and get information such as dimensions of the building, any hazards and projected water flow information,” Hutchison said. “If a second floor in a building was on fire, with this program we will have already calculated needed fire flow, the minimum recommended gallons per minute of water. If you have something like that, then you know where to go for your water supply, because some hydrants can’t do this while others can.”
Hutchison said this project is a “work in progress.”
“Eventually we will have all these layers. I’ve always wanted to do this and now we have the opportunity,” Hutchison said. “The guys, while out in the community, have had people comment that they are glad we are doing this.”
Nola Sizemore may be reached at 606-573-4510 or on Twitter @Nola_hde