Warren Kron stood in front of a map of East Baton Rouge splattered in green. Each dot represents a person who had called for rescue during the August flood.
With a few clicks, the information technology professional pulled up a new map that shows the location of every on-duty police cruiser, active crime scene and car crash. Police used that tool the day a shooter opened fire on local law enforcement in an ambush that killed two police officers and a sheriff's deputy.
During the tumultuous summer of 2016, whenever the police and fire departments set up an emergency operations command center, they were joined by the local government's IT department.
Police, reporters and city officials huddled around a screen as dots and symbols appeared ov…
During GIS Day on Wednesday, they spoke about what they learned and how they hope to continue using such technology. GIS, or geographic information system, is a way to organize and map data. During the flood, IT workers mapped 911 calls in real time to help the fire department direct rescue boats, said Kron, the city-parish's GIS manager.
Afterward, the local government extrapolated from the 911 calls — and subsequent 311 calls — to form a rough estimate of the damage area. It was important to get that information out because the state was going to need federal assistance to rebuild, and the maps laid bare the extent of the flooding, Kron explained.
Local government officials estimated Tuesday that nearly 53,000 residences, 3,800 commercial…
But the first version was just a sketch, so the city-parish decided to try something new: They pushed the imperfect map out to the public and asked residents to write in and tell them what they got wrong, identifying places that were marked dry but were actually wet and vice-versa.
As a result, East Baton Rouge has consistently published more-complete public information more quickly than any other parish, the state or the federal government. The city-parish data was the first to show that half the people in the parish who flooded did not live in areas where mortgage holders are required to purchase flood insurance.
In East Baton Rouge, half the homes inundated in the recent storms aren't in areas where flo…
The city-parish fact-checked the data during the mop-up phase by tracking debris contractors and following applications for flood-related building permits.
"We really feel like this is an accurate representation of the flood in August," Kron said Wednesday.
More recently, the city's GIS department has given political observers some data to chew over, breaking down the November vote precinct-by-precinct for races from Metro Council to President of the United States.
Baton Rouge mayoral candidates Sharon Weston Broome and Bodi White advanced to a runoff Tues…
While the city-parish still maintains maps on utility lines, property boundaries and other data, Interim IT Director Eric Romero said the local government is trying to be more proactive in its approach to technology.
Chief Administrative Officer William Daniel calls his weekly IT meetings "one of the best parts of my job."
This week, city staff are receiving an award from the Center for Digital Government, a research institute that looks at the way municipalities handle technology. Baton Rouge finished in the top 10 among cities with populations between 125,000 and 250,000 for "using technology to improve citizen services, enhance transparency and encourage citizen engagement."
During the GIS Day event, David Gisclair, of the state Oil Spill Coordinator's Office, also spoke of advancements in technology that will allow Louisiana officials to better understand issues from hurricane damage to coastal loss.
"Think of the data as infrastructure," Kron said.
"Use it to do something to make our city better."
The city-parish's GIS site is gis.brla.gov.