Firefighters, emergency crews, residents and volunteers were rightfully hailed as heroes during the Trepanier fire relief effort last September.
But there was another, unsung, hero of the rescue effort: Geographic information systems (GIS) technology.
Thanks to GIS, Regional District of Central Okanagan staff were able to speed up emergency operations to help those in need.
“How do we know who to evacuate? That’s where GIS tools come into play,” said Richard Bruneau, information services manager with the Regional District.
“We can look at the area of effect, we can set up evacuation zones, we have the information about people and their addresses, so we can make contact with those people and make sure they know when they can come back.”
Additionally, the technology allowed concerned members of the public to view maps of the Trepanier region affected by fire to get a better sense of the areas in danger.
According to Bruneau, GIS has many other functions in everyday life as well.
“Things like Google Earth and Google Maps have really helped (educate) people, but most people still just think about them as maps. They don’t think about information and making decisions and how you can use the spacial world in all aspects of your life.”
The Regional District will celebrate GIS technology Wednesday, Nov. 14, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Environmental Education Centre in Mission Creek Regional Park.
The open house—held on International GIS Day—is being sponsored by the National Geographic Society and will aim to educate visitors on the importance of GIS.
Bruneau said another goal is to highlight advantages of taking up a career in GIS.
“It’s kind of a new technology—infant compared to a lot of other technologies that are out there. I’d love to see more people take it up as a career choice.”
Representatives from the Regional District, City of Kelowna, District of West Kelowna, Interior Health, Urban Systems and Ecora Resource Group will be on hand to illustrate examples of how GIS is used in various industries.
“There will be some demos, some opportunity to play, some opportunity to ask questions and just sort of get exposed to what GIS is and how it’s used.”