Page 10 - Alabama 811 Magazine 2022 Issue 3
P. 10

Keeping Your Service A Area Updated
labama 811’s Service Area Editor is a software tool that allows members to view, edit or download their service
area. One of the biggest advantages of this platform is that the gap between members and 811 is closed as far as notification areas go. A member’s service area is basically the notation
of a geographical area of their overall facilities and helps determine when they are notified of excavation activities.
In the past members would submit their service area updates to our GIS team, usually through email or FTP upload, and our staff would conduct any geoprocessing needed to create the final product suitable to load into our service area database for that member. This geoprocessing could include reprojecting, buffering, clipping and a whole host of other geoprocessing tools. Once the geoprocessing was completed, the update would be uploaded into
our system and the new service area updates were active. There was no interface for members to go and see exactly what their service area really looked like when everything was processed and completed.
This gap from initial data submit to final product could create problems and misunderstandings. For example, a member might submit a shapefile of their underground lines and ask for a 500’ buffer - but without seeing how that buffer appeared on a map it is hard to know exactly what that covers. Not to mention as new lines are added there was no easy way for a member to log in to view exactly what was already covered.
This gap led to confusion, prompting many members to ask why they weren't getting tickets in areas they thought they were covered - or conversely it
led to members assuming they were covered in areas where they really weren't. Neither situation was good and a solution was needed.
Our service area editor is designed
with user-friendliness in mind. You don’t have to have any background knowledge on GIS to use it, but if you happen to be a GIS person you will find the functionality of the editor to be easy and effective.
8 • Alabama 811 2022, Issue 3
Different users have different needs, which is why we have both viewer and editor accounts on the service area editor. This is ideal for members who have some employees who need or want access to view their area at any time but leaves the actual editing up to one or two people.
Permissions can be changed anytime. Editors can use all the features we offer with the editor, while viewers can only view and download their areas.
Editors have access to the full suite
of tools associated with the service area editor. The tools range from very basic, draw-in features, to uploading your own GIS files that the editor can automatically buffer.
On the easier end of the spectrum, there are draw-in features on the editor. This includes a basic line tool & a polygon tool. The line tool has a buffer automatically applied once you finish drawing. The process is extremely easy and ideal for users who have little to
no GIS experience. The default buffer size can be changed upon request. Similar to the line tool, the polygon tool allows you to draw polygons directly
on the map. Another great choice for those with little experience in GIS.
No additional buffer is applied to the polygons drawn on the map.
The drawing tools can also be used
to remove areas from the map, again lending an easy choice for service area editing to those with little experience in the field.
For users more familiar with GIS who have their own datasets we also have the addition tool & full replacement tool. These allow you to plug in your own data directly to the editor, allowing for a seamless transition from your GIS to our service area editor.
The addition tool allows you to upload data as an addition to whatever is currently a part of your service area. Many users like this tool because they have a complete dataset that is their service area that they add to over
time. Rather than exporting the new additions as a separate layer, they can
simply upload the whole thing as an addition without fear of anything being left off.
The full replacement tool, as the name suggests, is for those who need to completely replace their existing area. When using this tool anything that is uploaded will become the new area, anything left off will be dropped from coverage. This is a valuable tool for cleaning up ever-changing datasets but should be used with caution.
To easily see what has been added or what has been left off the editor also has a “show published” tool. Checking that box simply highlights your current area in yellow allowing you to check your work quickly and easily.
Publishing your area
Our editor is built around safety
and ensuring that areas cannot be drastically changed by accident. When you submit an edit, it comes to us for approval. This process is to ensure we have a chance to check for any unusual changes before the update is pushed into production. As an example, if we see a major reduction in your area that seems accidental, we will reach out to confirm whether it is correct before the update goes into production.
If nothing looks out of place, we will approve your edits. Once the edits are approved, they will go live when we publish our next service area version. These updates typically go live on Thursday mornings, but they can
be done any time upon request if a member needs an update to go live sooner.
We are extremely excited to have the new service area editor up and running. Over the last year, we have transitioned dozens of frequently updating users onto the platform with success. Members who are interested in signing up for the editor should contact Andrew Maxwell at
The service area manager is just
one of the new technologies that are continuously being developed and being implemented with Alabama 811’s operations to keep a quality service in place for both our members and the excavating community.

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