Computer answers mean lower local fire insurance rates

Kingman residents pay lower fire insurance rates partially because city Fire Chief Chuck Osterman and his staff can answer questions asked by people who set fire premium rates, city surveyor Jack Kessler said.

"The fire department can answer questions about fire hydrants, water pressures, response time and service zones for each fire station using the GIS (Geographic Information System) data generated by Tim's computer program," Kessler said.

"Tim (Parker, GIS coordinator) lives with the system."

The system ties information to computer-generated maps of the city and has grown out of the city mapping and survey efforts, he said.

"We have 80 square miles of the city digitized and have transferred the maps to the computer system," Kessler said.

"The objective has always been to save the Kingman taxpayer money by eliminating manual systems that bog down in files, paper and file storage.

Use of the data by city departments helps meet that goal."

Kessler described the GIS program as a "hybrid" not fully functional as a typical data system that ties U.S.

census data to map points but useful for specific city applications.

"This has grown out of our need to map the city and maintain data for survey purposes," he said.

"By writing programs and layering information, we have developed a system that works for the fire department, planning and zoning, water and sewer departments and the police department."

The system includes maps with fire hydrant locations indicated on the water lines.

Parker maintains a computer database and inventory system for each hydrant.

Every hydrant has a number to identify it in the database.

Parker has added water and sewer lines with connection/valve locations to the computer map system and made the information available to city departments and the private sector.

"When Scott McCann inspects fire hydrants, I give him a list with the information he needs.

Then I update the system with the new data he collects," Parker said.

"All the hydrants are color-coded on the maps with pressure flows and history.

They can select the best hydrant to use for a specific fire."

The system gets the truck to the fire quicker and gives the department a list of trucks to dispatch as more help is needed, Kessler said.

"When we need to locate a water line or valve for repair or construction, we call Tim for maps." said Scott Yocum, water superintendent.

"If the map shows the water line three feet from the curb, we will find it there 99 percent of the time."

Kessler said the waterline and sewer line maps are used by the city and the private sector and make it easier for property owners, builders and city staff to determine extension and connection charges.

"We make maps of specific areas available to the public, including surveyors," Kessler said.

"It saves time and money for everyone, including the city."

The computer maps include zoning for each property and are used by staff in planning and zoning, he said.

Parker updates the system regularly and downloads data for use by engineering and planning and zoning.

"No one has access to the main system except Tim," Kessler said.

"That is a part of our computer security system to maintain the integrity."

Kessler and Parker have programmed most of the technical systems in the GIS database and developed means to combine and analyze information.

A base engineering and surveying program was purchased to begin the project.

Kessler said the full time work and expertise of Parker has been a key to the development.

The other key to development of more uses is communication with other city departments and developing communication with interested people, he said.

"People have to get comfortable with the computer and tell us what the needs are and how we might cooperate, Kessler said.

The GIS computer systems and the CAD (computer- assisted drafting) applications used by city engineers take advantage of more recent advances in technology that provide more memory and storage capacity at lower cost.

"We started with a Prime Mini Computer system in the '80s that cost about $250,000," Kessler said.

"It was here when I became city surveyor and I was looking for ways to utilize it."

He said that system had no capacity left after loading a program to do any of the things that Parker does today.

Technology has advanced and the graphics capacity is far less expensive.

Kessler and Parker have been innovative in using older equipment, such as the digitize used to transfer maps to the computer, and have the expertise to program around advances that make old equipment obsolete.

"Tim has been able to find a way to make the digitizer work even though it will not communicate directly with the newest desk top computer," he said.

Kessler said his primary duty is keeping the surveying system and mapping tasks up-to-date and available.

But all that map information has great potential for helping city staff with other tasks when data can be tied to the maps for analysis.

He is always looking for ways to cooperate with other city departments to make the system a useful tool to improve city service and reduce costs to taxpayers, Kessler said.