Reaction: NAFSE/NFFPC's ESRI Decision-Support Tools for Wildland Fire Management Workshop

We asked a few questions of Marie Cook (GIS Specialist, New Jersey Forest Fire Service, New Jersey Forest Service) about the ESRI workshop that we held in conjunction with the Northeast Forest Fire Protection Compact at the end of November! Thanks Marie, for providing your first hand account! Contact inga.lapuma@rutgers.edu if you are interested in the videos of this workshop.

What did you learn unexpectedly? 

I was unexpectedly introduced to one of Esri’s newer mobile apps, Workforce for ArcGIS. During the workshop, Fern used Workforce to dispatch data collection tasks during team field exercises. Each team leader received assignments through the app and used the map-centric interface to navigate to the location of our next task. Integration with apps like Collector and Survey123 allowed each to be launched directly from Workforce, taking the guess work out of which app and map was needed for each collection. Fern could track field activities on a map “back at the office” to quickly tell which tasks were accepted, declined, and completed during the exercises. 

We also got news to watch for the release of Aurora, a new version of the Collector for ArcGIS app! 

How did group dynamics play into the workshop? 

While fire and maps brought everyone together for the workshop, there was a lot of variation in the roles each of us play in our home agencies. This variety of experience and expertise seemed to have rounded the perspectives of each team. Within my group, this dynamic allowed us each to use free work time to independently explore and showcase a different tool in the ArcGIS Online (AGO) suite to address needs we have in our day jobs. Other groups found more common ground and worked together to design complete workflows using multiple applications to collect, display, and report data. Overall, I was reminded that drastically different goals can sometimes be accomplished with the same tools and similar workflows. 

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Photo by Amanda Mahaffey, Fern Ferner of ESRI, second from right.

 How will skills learned in the workshop be used in the future? 

I know everyone in attendance walked away with at least one idea of how tools demonstrated in the workshop can be used to make data collection and information sharing more efficient at home. From data collection tools for field staff to custom reporting dashboards for agency administrators, the vast and growing utility of Esri’s AGO tools is just beginning to be realized by many. I believe the workshop was delivered in such a way that attendees gained the confidence to embrace changing technologies, along with the foundation of understanding and skills needed to implement AGO workflows within their home agencies.