Navigating Data With SafeMeasures® Maps
As we often assert, a primary goal of SafeMeasures® is to provide people with data in a way that supports their work. A great example is our maps, which we added to SafeMeasures in 2006—initially to show where foster care children are placed and where referrals occur.
Since we added maps to SafeMeasures, it has been fascinating to watch users embrace this feature and come up with innovative ways of using it. Almost immediately after maps were introduced, one of our California users approached us to see if we could plot wildfires on a map of children’s locations; he thought it would be extremely valuable in his agency’s disaster readiness efforts. Always up for a challenge, our SafeMeasures developer Tim Connell poked around to see what natural event data he could get his hands on, and the disaster map—as we have come to call it—was born.
One useful feature of the disaster map is a “rip and run” list, which allows users to generate a list of clients within a selected area. In minutes, a user is able to log onto SafeMeasures, identify the location of an event, generate a list of affected children, and disseminate the information. Over time, the disaster map has grown beyond wildfires to include flood warnings, tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, and even tsunamis. Users can receive email alerts when children’s addresses are in close proximity to one of these events. This innovative use of data has been recognized by Esri, a major provider of mapping tools.
Over the years, our users have continued to approach us with ideas on how to further leverage the maps’ utility. One agency asked for a map that showed the saturation of referrals for each census tract in the state. Other clients use the map to help plan out client visits to cut down on travel time. Others have asked us to develop a way to display school attendance zones to help keep foster care children in their current schools.
Considering how much our mapping service has evolved in just a few years, it is safe to say that we have only scratched the surface of what mapping can do to help our clients. We envision maps helping with resource planning, such as identifying areas that need more facilities or foster homes to focus recruitment efforts. We also see promise in using mapped data to identify “hotspot” neighborhoods that would benefit from more community resources.
However the maps evolve, we will be listening to our clients to make sure SafeMeasures adapts in ways that continue to provide users with accessible, actionable data.
Sarah Hesse is a business analyst at NCCD.