COUNTY LINES

In Florida, a GIS calls in census reminders and warns of emergencies

Hold the phone. The Polk County, Fla., Sheriff's Office has implemented a communications system that will increase responses for the 2000 Census, help find missing persons and warn residents of impending natural disasters.

Donna Wood, administrator for community service at the Sheriff's Office, said the new system uses the office's existing databases with the GeoNotify geographic information system from Bradshaw Consulting Services Inc. of Aiken, S.C., and the Communicator from Dialogic Communications Corp. of Franklin, Tenn.

It's for you. The system finds pertinent information in the databases, processes it via GeoNotify and dials the telephone numbers of county residents automatically to:

' Contact residents who have not yet filled out their census forms

' Notify people who are involved in neighborhood watch programs about meetings

' Contact people in a particular geographic area about missing persons

' Warn residents about potential emergencies such as hurricanes and floods.

For the census, GeoNotify maintains data such as which areas have had low response rates. MapObjects, embedded mapping software from Environmental Systems Research Institute of Redlands, Calif., lets GeoNotify access that information from the Sheriff's Office's databases. The system then feeds the results to the Communicator, which calls people who have not filled out their forms.

Wood said the system saves time and money for the Sheriff's Office, which used it to contact 33,669 people in Polk County who had failed to respond to the initial U.S. Census Bureau mailing. Merl Bishop, a member of the Polk County Board of Commissioners, said that within the first week the county used the system it reached almost all the residences in the targeted areas.

Dollars at stake. Polk County estimates that it loses at least $100 in federal and state funding for every person not counted in the census.

In Polk County's system, MapObjects and the Communicator run under Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 on a 550-MHz Pentium III PC with 256M of RAM, two 20G hard drives, a 5G Hewlett-Packard internal tape drive and two external 33.6-Kbps modems.

'Fred Donovan

Special to GCN

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