Inside the Smoke: RCMP Takes Technology to the Front Lines


2017-09-11 14:09 PDT

Since early July, the RCMP has mobilized over 4,000 police officers and employees from across the province to support thousands of people in communities under evacuation orders and alerts.

The sheer size of some of the fires burning in the province, coupled with the ever changing weather conditions have made it challenging for the RCMP to determine when, where and how many resources to deploy to each community in order to manage public safety and protect properties before, during and after evacuations.

But thanks to recent technology, the RCMP has adopted the use of two new mapping applications which have been of tremendous help in the planning stages of resource deployment and during the tactical evacuations of each affected community.

Planning for evacuations

Local governments (regional districts) are responsible for issuing evacuation alerts and orders and determining their boundaries. GeoBC then compiles those alert and order boundaries and adds population estimates for each boundary based on the most recent census from 2016.

The RCMP in BC has created the Advanced Planning Map (ADP) which brings together the evacuation alert and order data provided by GeoBC and other information that affects fire activity such as weather. The map also shows the near real time location of the fires detected from satellites provided by the USDA Forest Service, fire perimeters from BC Wildfire Service, and wind speed and direction from Meteorological Service of Canada.

ADP map shows the Elephant Hill wildfire and the Loon Lake evacuation order and alert boundaries 

The BC RCMP’s Geomatics Coordinator, Robert Schultz, explains that the ADP map helps the RCMP planning team with determining how many resources to deploy to notify the public of evacuation orders and to patrol evacuated areas. It also allows for the visualization of RCMP and Canadian Forces check points that are located in and around the fire zones. The ADP map is accessible from the mobile data terminals in police vehicles to give officers in the field awareness of the fire situation around them.

Effecting evacuations

The other tool being used in the front lines is a computer based application, which displays similar information as the ADP map as well as GPS locations, personnel movement, fire evacuation zones, civic address, and un-registered roads and access points.

When evacuation orders are issued, the RCMP uses the tool to determine which locations to attend to within the evacuation boundaries. The officers note down on the map all the locations they have attended to and whether individuals have evacuated or how many have decided to stay.

The combined use of these two technological tools have certainly made a huge difference in the effective and safe evacuations of communities.


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