In June 2006, Honda officially announced Decatur County would be the home of a new plant, scheduled to open in 2008. The plant will cover 1 million square feet; sit on a 1,700 acre tract; and employ 2,000 people. Combined with an accelerated construction schedule (existing homes on the site were being moved less than 3 months after the official announcement), the County faced the immense challenge of responding to numerous information requests in a short period of time. There were parcel research requests for utility easements, widening of roads, property surveys, zoning, etc. On many days, County offices had people in line from open to close.
Decatur County had integrated much of their data into a geographic information system (GIS). By Spring 2006, many departments were on board: the Auditor's Office, Assessor's Office, Highway Department, Area Planning, e911, Clerk's Office and Recorder's Office. Each was using the GIS data as part of their normal daily functions.
In addition to fielding requests through the coordinated onsite system, the County's GIS website was released to the public. It proved to be a solid way of transferring information to constituents, as it allowed the public to obtain information from the GIS without any formal training.
The County's investment in GIS paid off in massive time savings. Mary Dickman, County Auditor's Office, says "...property information requests that used to take a couple of weeks are now answered in a matter of minutes."
In addition to facilitating information retrieval, the County's GIS provided a morale boost. Tim Ortman, Decatur County GIS Coordinator, noted that "…unlike any other project, the GIS pulled the County together as a unit." Departments that used to operate as individual islands now integrate their information and share data, which creates a general respect between the offices, and allows the County to supply information to the public faster and more accurately than ever before.
The Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) is aware of the value aerial photography brings to emergency response efforts. The Department wanted to provide county emergency managers and first responders customized and direct access to Indiana's statewide photography. The challenge was delivering it to agencies in a useful format, considering most did not have mapping software or the computer hardware necessary to support it.
The solution was the Indiana First Response Map (INFRM), a custom viewing application tailored for each of Indiana's 92 counties. The application was built to run on top of existing free map-viewing software, allowing unlimited access with no-cost licensing. Homeland Security also supplied each county Emergency Management Agency with ten laptop computers ready to load and run the First Response Map application.
INFRM was designed to be completely flexible. Counties can customize it to their own police, fire, or emergency management needs. Additional local data can be added using traditional mapping software. For expert mapping professionals, data was packaged as shapefiles, and can be used with any compatible mapping software. The flexibility also extends to more advanced programming. The source code for INFRM is freeware, and a copy of the source code can be obtained and further customized for specific uses.
Thanks to this Homeland Security initiative, 920 Indiana first responders now have state-of-the-art mapping tools in hand to support their emergency management activities. The highly-accurate and detailed aerial photography provides a common map across each county and throughout the state of Indiana. The ability to integrate this data with other local data layers provides the best available digital map data to the first responders and emergency management community throughout Indiana.