DHS releases 250 geospatial data sets on U.S. infrastructure

The Department of Homeland Security is opening 250 sets of geospatial data about the location of vital industries across the country to the public.

The Department of Homeland Security is opening 250 sets of geospatial data about the location of vital industries across the country to the public.

The data comes from the Homeland Infrastructure Foundation-Level Data working group, or HIFLD, a DHS initiative to catalogue U.S. critical infrastructure initiated after 9/11. Called HIFLD Open, the data sets are being released to help Americans and their communities prepare to deal with attacks on critical infrastructure, with a focus on safeguarding economic stability.

“HIFLD Open marks an evolution in DHS information sharing, and we have an opportunity to be open and secure; to empower citizens and communities; to support local law enforcement and first responders, businesses and the private sector,” David Alexander, director of Geospatial Information for the DHS, said in remarks at the FedGIS conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

The data represents roughly half of the information stored in the main HIFLD program, which contains more than 500 geospatial data sets from DHS and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.


Formerly regarded as “For Official Use Only” — one of the many ways the government labels and restricts unclassified information —  the 250 sets are broken down into distinct categories, allowing citizens to search the country for 24 different types of infrastructure, including government buildings, mines, power plants and schools. They also map emergency resources like alternative fueling stations and public refrigerated warehouses, which could help protect commerce in the case of an attack.

The data is rendered using ArcGIS, a cloud-based mapping platform that offers a suite of analytic and visualization tools and allows users to plot between points across the U.S. Much of the data is available for direct download on the HIFLD Open website.

The new interface represents a significant advancement over HIFLD’s previous system of storing information, which was limited to physical disks. 

“We used to ship DVDs,” Alexander said. “Now we use dynamic Web services that are updated from the source.”

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