The areas of geographic information systems (GIS) and data analytics continue to emerge as important, high-opportunity career fields, both in public safety and other industries.
Transportation systems analyze location and traffic data to develop more efficient highway and mass transit systems. Banks and other financial institutions use analytics to track fraud, improve security, and develop better products. Online retailers and delivery companies use GIS analytics to track inventory and manage highly complex shipping services.
And, of course, public safety remains one of the areas of high opportunity for GIS and data analytics careers. In this blog, we will discuss the benefits of having a graduate diploma in GIS and data analytics to grow your current career or to transition into a new area in this critical field.
The Nature and Importance of GIS and Data Analytics Careers in Public Safety
Public Safety Canada was an early adopter of GIS technology following the development of the first operational geographic information system in the early 1960s for Canada Land Inventory “to determine the land capability for rural Canada by mapping information about soils, agriculture, recreation, wildlife, waterfowl, forestry and land use.”
Today, opportunities for GIS and data analytics careers in public safety abound. Analysts use GIS in many ways, such as:
- profiling natural disasters
- mapping crime
- tracking diseases and public health matters such as epidemics and pandemics
- managing emergency response systems
- improving 9-1-1 services
Expertise in these areas can create dynamic opportunities for those already working in public safety to move to GIS and data analytics careers. Likewise, professionals interested in transitioning to GIS and data analytics careers can gain the knowledge and skills needed by earning an online data analytics diploma.
In this blog we will describe the nature and importance of GIS and data analytics careers, focusing on four key areas of public safety:
- fire and EMS
- law enforcement
- emergency management
- next generation 9-1-1
We will examine the components and GIS and data analytics applications of each area and identify some specific career possibilities.
How Data Is Used in Public Safety
In all areas of public safety work, the collection and application of relevant data is crucial to making decisions that have significant consequences. Fire and EMS services, law enforcement officials, emergency management workers, and 9-1-1 systems all require efficient methodologies for receiving and analyzing massive amounts of data, much of it geographic in nature. Each of these areas of public safety offers rewarding opportunities for GIS and data analytics careers.
Fire and EMS: GIS and Data Analytics Careers
Reliable fire and emergency response systems are critical to public safety. The effectiveness of these agencies is essential to save lives and property and to protect communities impacted by emergency incidents. Responding to and managing these incidents also has real financial impacts.
Increasingly, fire and EMS systems rely on GIS and data analytics in their daily operations in key areas, including:
- operations and performance monitoring
- community risk reduction
- wildland fire management
Operations and Performance Monitoring
Every emergency service depends on both accurate and well-understood data to complete successful emergency operations. Since these operations are deeply tied to geographic information, GIS and data analysts in this area help monitor the performance and evaluate the outcomes of various responses. These processes help improve ongoing and future response operations in particular geographic areas.
Community Risk Reduction
Another important task of GIS and data analysts is in helping experts improve their understanding of dangers in a given community. By collecting and analyzing emergency incident and response data for specific locations and regions, these experts help identify existing and emerging trouble spots. Consequently, response organizations can develop community action plans and response strategies that improve safety for the community and first responders.
Wildland Fire Management
Wildfires continue to pose an increasing threat and concern, requiring fire response agencies to develop a deeper understanding of origins, spread, and mitigation strategies. GIS and data analysts are essential in this endeavor, helping make sense of maps, geographic analytics, and reports. Experts who understand new technologies in GIS and data analytics help fire agencies better prepare and respond to these incidents and communities recover more effectively after fires.
Law Enforcement: GIS and Data Analytics Careers
Police departments and other law enforcement agencies rely on GIS and data analysts in virtually every part of their operations. The data gathered and put to use by GIS and data experts enables departments to empower officers with a better understanding of particular areas, better information in the midst of responses, and better insight into causes and solutions of criminal activity.
In particular, effective GIS and data analytics systems assist law enforcement with:
- crime analysis
- open and transparent policing
- field mobility for law enforcement agencies
GIS and data analysts specializing as crime analysts utilize mapping and spatial analysis tools to determine patterns and help identify potential solutions. However, their work extends well beyond data, mapping, and statistics. According to the International Association of Crime Analysts, this work is “about interpreting data into actionable information to help law enforcement intervene on crime patterns, trends, series, hot spots, and long-term problems.”
Open and Transparent Policing
One of the most important issues in modern policing is the establishment and demonstration of ethical police work that prioritizes the safety of all members of a community. GIS and data analytics allow departments to track their activity more precisely and provide detailed information about policing to the public. Experts in these areas also enable departments to identify parts of the community most in need of outreach and improved relationships.
Field Mobility for Law Enforcement Agencies
As much as any other component of public safety work, policing requires access to accurate, real-time geographic data and analysis. The ability to provide officers in the field with this information using new technologies enables not only faster responses but more accurate responses and better situational awareness. GIS and data analytics have become a non-negotiable part of safe, effective, and adaptable police work.
Emergency Management: GIS and Data Analytics Careers
Emergency management agencies are tasked with not only responding to disasters but also helping communities minimize risk, prepare for eventual incidents, and recover after disaster strikes. This includes natural and manmade disasters as well as public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. These responsibilities are more challenging and complicated than ever before.
Each of these phases of emergency management provides opportunities for GIS and data analytics careers.
Mitigate Disaster Risk
GIS and data analysts work within the emergency management infrastructure to predict the likelihood and impact of a disaster event and to assess particular vulnerabilities in a community or region. Their expertise enables them to help equip other emergency management professionals to understand these potential risks and work to mitigate them.
Prepare for Disasters
In addition to evaluating risk and vulnerability, GIS and data analytics are used to help emergency management agencies prepare for particular kinds of disaster events. This includes not only applications such as flood planning but also work to determine the resiliency of particular areas and communities to specific kinds of incidents. These analysts are essential in helping to increase response capabilities and to promote community awareness that becomes crucial at the actual time of a disaster event.
Respond to Disasters
Emergency management agencies rely on GIS and data analysts to help develop and implement disaster response strategies. Their expertise is critical for initial damage assessments, communication with the public, and short-term response plans. As a result, emergency responders are able to deploy with greater speed and efficiency and can communicate more effectively.
Recover from Disasters
GIS and data analysts also help determine the actual damage from an incident, including impacts on property and public structures. Using GIS data after a disaster, these analysts synthesize relevant maps and data critical to the evaluation of public safety and health in the ensuing days and weeks.
Next Generation 9-1-1: GIS and Data Analytics Careers
Canada is in a graduated process of transitioning its 9-1-1 services from an analogue system created for landline telephones to a next-generation 9-1-1 service (NG9-1-1). These changes are meant to both adjust to an era when most emergency calls originate from smartphones and Internet Protocol (IP) devices and to offer new safety enhancements. NG9-1-1 will be faster and more reliable and will enable voice, data, photos, videos, and text messages to be sent by those needing emergency services.
Canada is implementing NG9-1-1 in three phases:
- March 30, 2021: voice network ready
- March 30, 2022: real-time text ready
- March 30, 2024: analogue 911 network decommissioned
This historic change already rests on a foundation of GIS and data analytics, but with each successive shift, the opportunities for GIS and data analytics careers undoubtedly will increase.
Career Opportunities in Public Safety with a Graduate Diploma in GIS and Data Analytics
The information above details many of the key public safety fields that rely on professionals with expertise in GIS and data analytics. We’ll overview a few of potential career paths here.
As we noted earlier in the blog, crime analysts work with data and evidence to identify criminal patterns, trends, problem areas, and long-term issues. These analysts help synthesize data and present it to other law enforcement professionals in clear and accessible forms.
The study of GIS and data analytics offers potential crime analysts an extra asset in that it equips them for analyzing criminal activity in relation to geographic patterns in communities.
Some of the tasks of a crime analyst include:
- Mining data from police reports, databases, and other law enforcement sources to provide useful information to police;
- Creating both victim and suspect profiles and developing corresponding action plans;
- Identifying and analyzing crime trends and patterns to help with preventative solutions.
The average salary for a crime analyst in Canada is $70,000, while those at the upper end of the field, typically those with more education and/or experience, can earn in excess of $84,000 in pay and bonuses.
Data analysts perform similar work to GIS analysts, though not always with the same geographic emphasis. In public safety settings, data analysts collect and interpret data and present it in forms that other experts can utilize for developing and improving various public safety systems and networks.
Some of the tasks of a data analyst include:
- Determining agency data needs, identifying technical issues, and designing reports to meet data analysis needs;
- Researching and utilizing new sources of data and methodologies to improve data collection, analysis, and presentation;
- Collecting, analyzing, and presenting data according to agency demands.
The average salary for a data analyst in Canada is $57,000, while those at the upper end of the field, typically those with more education and/or experience, earn in excess of $77,000.
The reported average salary for a senior data analyst is $76,000, while the upper tier of senior data analysts make over $95,000.
Geographic Information Systems Analyst
GIS analysts gather and analyze large groups of data so that it can be used for specific purposes, including the various applications we’ve discussed in public safety. GIS analysts work with data and mapping software, including desk work and, at times, fieldwork using data-collecting GPS systems.
The reported average salary for a GIS analyst in Canada is $57,000, while those at the upper end of the field, typically those with more education and/or experience, earn more than $70,000.
The Benefits of Earning a Graduate Diploma in GIS and Data Analytics
As we’ve described, public safety professionals with expertise in GIS and data analytics evaluate the connections between geographic location and various dynamics impacting public safety — including fire and EMS services, law enforcement, emergency management services, and next generation 9-1-1. Virtually any project or response in these areas includes at its origin GIS and data analysts gathering and interpreting such information.
The Graduate Diploma in GIS and Data Analytics from Wilfrid Laurier University focuses on delivering practical knowledge in GIS and data analytics that can be immediately applied in the office and in the field. The program is developed by industry-experienced public safety experts and designed for active professionals looking to build their career in public safety.
Courses provide instruction in these areas:
- GIS and Data Analytics
- GIS, Crime Mapping, and Risk Terrain Modeling
- Public Safety in Canada
- Issues in Contemporary Public Safety
GIS and Data Analytics
This course provides advanced-level geospatial and intelligence components. The focus is to provide you with the theoretical and advanced application levels of how geographic information systems provide data that can be transformed into actionable intelligence. You will develop the necessary skills to access, analyze, and communicate real-time information in order to support intelligence-led and evidence-based responses by public safety personnel.
GIS, Crime Mapping, and RTM
Building on the components in the GIS and Data Analytics course, you will develop the comprehensive skills necessary to analyze and synthesize information affecting the relationship between criminal activities, geography and spatial dynamics, technological advancements, and the role of crime mapping in relation to public safety methodologies. Through case studies and hands-on exercises, you will explore the practical applications of geographic information systems and tools and learn how to leverage data from various sources for tactical operations, community law enforcement, strategic planning, crime analysis, and spatial modelling.
Public Safety in Canada
This course provides you with an advanced knowledge of the structure, components, and mandates of how governments keep their respective citizens safe from natural disasters, crime, and terrorism. More specifically, you will review and examine how the coordination across all federal departments and agencies responsible for the public safety of citizens is articulated and enacted.
Issues in Contemporary Public Safety
This course focuses on issues in contemporary Canadian and global public safety, including the internal and external forces that are shaping current practices. A key component of this course is the opportunity for you and classmates to critically examine current/emerging issues facing public safety professionals. Topics can include:
- refugees and immigration
- intercultural competencies
- fiscal restraints
- the impact of social media
Earning a graduate diploma in GIS and data analytics equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to pursue a career in these vital and expanding areas of public safety.
Are you ready to take your next step in the field of geographic information systems and data analytics? Explore your pathway here.