The Forestry Source - November 2012 - (Page 8)
GIS for Foresters
ArcGIS Online Puts the GUI in the WUI
By Hylton Haynes recent trip to the Esri International User Conference and my current work on a unique fire mapping project led Forestry Source editor Steve Wilent to ask me to write a follow-up to his informative piece on ArcGIS Online and its implications for foresters (“ArcGIS Online Helps the Forestland Group Collaborate with Consultants in Four Countries,” July). As a forestry professional who has worked with GIS for more than 12 years in various land-management applications, I find the applicability of this new technology simply astonishing. I work for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in its Wildland Fire Operations Division, which has recently partnered with Esri to develop Firewise Mapper. This interactive tool shows the location and attributes of neighborhoods participating in a wildfire safety program called Firewise Communities/USA. I gave a presentation on this project at the recent Esri International User Conference in San Diego, a week-long event attracting more than 15,000 attendees from 131 countries. While at the conference, I learned about an alliance between Microsoft (MS) and Esri that has led to the integration of ArcGIS Online cloud technology with MS products such Excel, PowerPoint, and SharePoint through add-ins available to all ArcGIS Online subscribers who use MS products.
Figure 2. Wildland-fire risk potential is shown in yellow on this map of the Wenatchee Complex Fire in Washington State.
Figure 1. Using Firewise Mapper’s “pop-up” functionality to learn more about the Crown King Moss Torpedo Subdivision, a nationally recognized Firewise Communities/USA site.
The partnership between the two companies not only enhances ArcGIS Online capabilities, but also makes ArcGIS online technology readily accessible to general MS Office users. This leads me to recall my days at Virginia Tech, learning to use ArcView GIS 3.1 and wondering if I was even going to survive the forest photogrammetry and remote sensing course due to my poor understanding of the clunky GUI (graphic user interface). With the integration of MS products and ArcGIS Online, such frustrations are a thing of the past. The conference also focused on features in ArcGIS 10.1 that give the desktop GUI a built-in capacity to work seamlessly with ArcGIS Online. This functionality lets you create and analyze data in ArcGIS on the desktop version and publish it in the ArcGIS Online environment, thus reaching your desired audience almost instantly. These new developments are game-changers, in my view. They take GIS technology from the purview of GIS specialists and expand it to anyone familiar with Excel and other MS products. Virtually anyone can now create their own maps using ArcGIS Online technology in a seamless user-friendly environment, and the data and maps can be edited, published, and readily available to end-users in a fraction of the time that was conceivable in even the recent past. I suspect the role of the GIS specialist will change considerably due to these new workflow possibilities. Using GIS to Picture the WUI NFPA’s Firewise Mapper project currently includes point locations for nearly 800 active and 200 inactive Firewise Communities/USA recognition sites, which are wildland-urban interface (WUI) communities that have engaged in a voluntary process to reduce local wildfire risks. Using ArcGIS Online, the NFPA can communicate the Firewise
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