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Report by Patrick R. Hall


The Los Angeles Fire Department’s Community Emergency Response Team (LAFD CERT) volunteer program is taught by our local Fire Department in Los Angeles, California.  Over time, members hone their skills through additional training, drills, tests and mentorships.  All of come from different backgrounds and experiences; many are retired while others are working full time.


Identify on a map where our volunteers reside and/or work so that we can best reach out to them in the early hours of a disaster or other field operation (fire patrol, wires down, etc.).


We now have the infrastructure to supply the information to the volunteer and uniformed personnel.  Work to assimilate the data for the entire volunteer core is underway.  There was a modest delay in getting initial traction due to work commitments (first 5.5 months of Pledge period).  The next steps to the project would be to make it available to above-mentioned personnel on both mobile and workstation devices.

Data Elements

Volunteer Location: The data capturing of volunteer ‘location’ involves individual privacy, so an ‘offset’ formula was created to achieve the results without specific addresses.  There are several geographic structures that are involved with our dataset.

Fire Districts: Each area of the city is broken in manageable portions; the primary one of interest is the Fire District.  It is the geographic area that is served by a particular Fire Station.

Residential Boundaries: These segments group the residents into individual areas of the city for purposes of contact (email, social media, etc.). Often, the Residential Boundary will host a new training class, thereby increasing the pool of potential volunteer members. Email and contact methods can then direct further training, drills and deployments based upon those Residential Boundaries.


What was needed was a way to visualize the volunteer locations in reference to both their Fire District as well as their Residential Boundary

This is a sample Residential Area called Local Area 1.  It happens to be a simple rectangle, however, many of our Residential Areas conform to the local Congressional District boundaries or to the geography of local rivers as well as Zip Codes.

Local Area 1

This adds the actual points for the Volunteer locations (adjusted by a formula):

Local Area 1 with volunteer location points adjusted for privacy

The next map shows the addition of the Fire District.  As our use of the maps will vary, it is often helpful to be able to drill down to each layer of information as the need arises.

For example, if we are hosting (or become aware of) a training that is local to a given Fire District, it is helpful to know who is closest to that training location.  It might prompt us to increase the number of volunteers by adding additional Fire District locations.  Seeing who is where (in each Category and sub-Category) is extremely Helpful.

We have also begun adding more Attributes to the data source to gather Training Levels and Expertise in order to better stage any ‘field operations’.

Local Area 1 with its Fire District (blue)

In most cases, the Fire Districts are substantially larger than the Residential Areas.  The mapping helps us get a clearer picture of our Volunteer Core.

Zoomed out map of Local Area 1 with its larger Fire District.
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