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Rowan County highlights value of GIS service

SALISBURY – World Geography Awareness Week is this week, and Rowan County government is celebrating by raising awareness about the services it offers.

The five-day celebration started Monday and will last until Friday. World Geographic Information System Day is today.

The week was created by National Geographic more than 25 years ago in an effort to raise awareness in American education about geography — the study of places and the relationships between people and their environments. A geographic information system is a computer system designed to capture, store, check, and display data related to positions on Earth’s surface.

The awareness week is celebrated every third week of November by students, educators, families, businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Adrian Rollans, Rowan County GIS coordinator, said his office’s role is to collect and maintain information on 911 addresses, property boundaries and property ownership in the county.

“When you call 911 and you have an emergency, we use geographic information in order to try and get someone out to that location as quickly as possible.” he said.

It’s also a frequent tool for those looking for information about real estate.

“The most challenging and significant thing we do is through 911 and our work with emergency services. Through GIS, we are utilized as the main engine that enables calls to be properly routed in order to assist people regarding emergencies,” he said.

Rollans said he’s working with the county’s Information Technology Department to help the permitting process move faster for applicants.

He studied geography and computer cartography at Appalachian State University and his been with Rowan County for 20 years.

“I always liked maps and collecting maps out of the National Geographic Magazine as a kid and just gravitated to it,” he said. “I just love how many questions geography can answer in a short amount of time.”

Rollans says he wants to develop a curriculum with elementary schoolchildren to help them better understand geography.

“Whether we let the kids just draw a map of their neighborhood or their town, it really gets them thinking about where they are and their place in the world,” he said. “We want to continue to provide applications that are meaningful and useful for our population and we are always looking for ways to improve.”

Each year, more than 100,000 Americans participate in Geography Awareness Week, according to National Geographic.

“Established by presidential proclamation more than 25 years ago, this annual public awareness program encourages citizens young and old to think and learn about the significance of place and how we affect and are affected by it,” according to National Geographic’s website.

Through Rowan County’s website, visitors are able to explore data categories dealing with the environment, boundaries, public safety, planning and zoning, property, recreation, housing and transportation as well as access resources such as the National Geographic Resource Library.

The website is gisdata-rowancountync.opendata.arcgis.com.

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