For years BELD employees had been frustrated working from paper maps that are outdated as soon as they are printed. But now they're using a cutting-edge technology called Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
A GIS stores information about the world (or any geographic region) as a collection of thematic layers that can be linked together by geography. This simple yet extremely powerful concept has proven invaluable for such real-world issues as tracking delivery vehicles, recording planning details and modeling global atmospheric circulation.
The most recent GIS project at BELD began in 1996. First, aerial maps of the entire town were collected. These were then translated for the computer. Through the use of a software product called Autodesk's AutoCAD Map, we are able to layer street maps and maps of our poles and wires with exact precision.
Although we are still inputting data, our engineering staff will soon be able to troubleshoot outage calls by owner name, or address. Users will be able to query the system by customer name or address, and the system will display the customer's home as well as all buildings, streets, sidewalks, signs, trees, etc., within a 700-foot radius. It will also include an image of the area that will be overlaid in the background.
While the GIS project will allow BELD customers to enjoy expedited service thanks to the improved distribution system database, the benefits of this project extend beyond the electrical system. The town is exploring ways in which it can use the GIS data BELD has collected. Local governments across the country have found many valuable uses for the GIS including land use studies, assessment and tax information, aid in crime prevention, enhanced emergency operations and traffic studies.