Maps have long surpassed the simple goal of getting people from point A to point B, with the availability of online mapping tools that show parks, train stations, places of interest, and snapshots of homes and streets.
For firefighters and municipal employees like OEM staff, construction and tax officials, digital maps like the ones provided by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) are becoming increasingly helpful, allowing users to look at specific items like fire hydrants, chemical storage facilities, and even manholes.
Last month, the NJMC launched enhanced digital municipal mapping tools that provide more layers of data for free to the 14 municipalities it serves, including Secaucus, North Bergen and Jersey City.
Layers of data
The new maps feature a more efficient and user-friendly interface and datasets including sanitary sewer and storm water lines, zoning, land use, acreage, building footprints, and more.
“Think of a layer as a layer cake. You can put one layer on top of the other. It is almost like Google where you can add on business data and all types of information. In our case it is parcel, zoning, and land use,” said Dom Elefante, NJMC Geographic Information Systems Administrator.
The GIS team is part of the Commission’s Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute (MERI), which implemented the upgrades and maintains the Mapping Tools. GIS has been collecting property information since 1993.
“As a regional planning agency, property information is the bedrock of what we do,” said Brian Aberback, spokesperson for the NJMC. “In the beginning we would give towns software with programs. Now with advanced technology we can do a web-based version.”
“It is almost like Google where you can add on business data and all types of information.” – Dom Elefante
Secaucus represents roughly 3,500 properties of the 100,000 visible in the maps, which includes vacant properties, commercial properties, parks, and residential land.
“Every property in Secaucus is on there,” said Brian Aberback, spokesperson for NJMC. “The maps are constantly updated when we see there is a new business in town.”
Finding hazardous chemicals during emergencies
“Our data is specifically geared for first responders of the town,” said Elefante. “If they were called to a fire, they can actually pull up on one of their laptops an aerial view along with the Right-to-Know (RTK) data of that facility.” The RTK data refers to environmental laws that require facilities to disclose the location of any chemicals on their property to the Department of Environmental Protection. If a property stores propane, for example, that would appear on the maps.
First responders can also learn more about the nature of the material by clicking on it or access contact information about the property owner. The mapping tools also help firefighters find the nearest fire hydrants and turn around space for heavy firefighting equipment with greater ease instead of relying on paper maps or binders.
Other uses of the maps include easily accessing zoning information and property boundaries when notifying residents of a variance on a surrounding property or determining where a surge will occur in case of future flooding.
The new maps also include information about sanitary sewer, storm water lines and manholes.
“We are at an early stage of the utility mapping effort. What this entails is gathering the utility infrastructure for the towns,” said Elefante. The maps can link reports to any blockages found in the sewer lines through the use of a VAC truck and camera van that goes out whenever a town needs help with a sewer line.
The GIS team offers year-round refresher and training courses on the Mapping Tools for municipal officials and first responders. The NJMC is the planning and zoning authority for the 30.4-square-mile Meadowlands District.
The public can view the maps online at: http://meri.njmeadowlands.gov/maps.
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