Big Data in the Field of Civil Security Research: Approaches for the Visual Preprocessing of Fire Brigade Operations

Big Data in the Field of Civil Security Research: Approaches for the Visual Preprocessing of Fire Brigade Operations

Julia Gonschorek (Department of Geography, University of Potsdam, Germany), Anja Langer (Department of Geography, University of Potsdam, Germany), Benjamin Bernhardt (Department of Geography, University of Potsdam, Germany) and Caroline Räbiger (Department of Geography, University of Potsdam, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/IJAEIS.2016010104
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This article gives insight in a running dissertation at the University in Potsdam. Point of discussion is the spatial and temporal distribution of emergencies of German fire brigades that have not sufficiently been scientifically examined. The challenge is seen in Big Data: enormous amounts of data that exist now (or can be collected in the future) and whose variables are linked to one another. These analyses and visualizations can form a basis for strategic, operational and tactical planning, as well as prevention measures. The user-centered (geo-) visualization of fire brigade data accessible to the general public is a scientific contribution to the research topic 'geovisual analytics and geographical profiling'. It may supplement antiquated methods such as the so-called pinmaps as well as the areas of engagement that are freehand constructions in GIS. Considering police work, there are already numerous scientific projects, publications, and software solutions designed to meet the specific requirements of Crime Analysis and Crime Mapping. By adapting and extending these methods and techniques, civil security research can be tailored to the needs of fire departments. In this paper, a selection of appropriate visualization methods will be presented and discussed.
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Civil security is a public good. In the United States of America, Canada, and the United Kingdom computer-based research on civil security has been conducted, and the result published, for more than two decades, especially in the field of criminology: “Crime analysis refers to the set of systematic, analytical process that provides timely, pertinent information about crime patterns and crime trend correlations. It is primarily a tactical tool. […] Analyzing and comparing data on file with those on current cases can give patrol officers important information on activities in their beat areas. […] Using this information, patrols can better deploy resources.” (Boba, 2005, p. 5) The focus is on solutions that lead to perpetrator identification and successful judicial prosecution. Crime scenes and hotspots of criminal activity are mapped with computers and then evaluated by analysts. In Germany, the responsible test facility is that of the federal police in Lübeck. For the fire department, a central responsible institution does not exist. In the Länder as well as the professional fire services, individual programs for demand-oriented research and development are implemented. Civil security research has been on the agenda of the federal government for several years. With the program “Research for Civil Security 2012-2017” of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, a previous program of the same name is continued. It defines civil security as “the basis of free life and [as] an important factor of economic prosperity in Germany” (BMBF, 2012, p. 2). The aim of the program and of the financial support of R&D projects between universities, research institutions, companies, and government institutions, is to find solutions for the protection of public goods such as infrastructure and economy, as well as for the citizens. Civil security and research in this area be understood as cross-cutting issues. One focus will be on finding solutions for the protection and rescue of people that fit the operational routine of responsible organizational units.


Data from the Fire Brigade in Cologne will be visualized in terms of their spatial, temporal and spatio-temporal distributions to support tactical, strategic and operational planning in the field of civil security. Highly specialized software products, e.g. individual solutions from Siemens, SAP and others, support the operational planning of the police. Examples include Geovista, RIGEL Analyst and Compstat. Analytics and visualization systems customized to the needs of the fire brigade are rare, particularly considering the fact that no products for decision support or mobile services are to be designed, as there are already solutions available that support the dispatchers in the control center.

Evaluating past, but also ongoing modeling and forecasting operations can help with strategic, tactical, and operational planning. This specifically concerns decision support of operational planning, the demand for equipment, risk assessment and the identification of any potential dangers. For this purpose, samples of the data available to a Ph.D. Project are analyzed (approx. 500.000 entries), using selected tools within the open-source statistics platform R and the JavaScript library D3.

Thus, fire brigade operations can be visualized in terms of their type, location, duration and frequency in the test area Cologne. Objectives of data visualization are:

  • 1.

    To create a deeper understanding of the information embedded in the data,

  • 2.

    To establish a basis for statistical analyses to identify hotspots (clustering method and kernel density estimation) and

  • 3.

    To identify spatial and temporal movement patterns and contexts.

Provide broad definitions and discussions of the topic and incorporate views of others (literature review) into the discussion to support, refute or demonstrate your position on the topic.


Geovisual Data Analysis

In the English language, geo-visualization, geo-visual analyses and geo-visual analytics are often all referred to as geo-visual analytics, even though their meanings differ. This is caused by the fact that there is no adequate German term.

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