National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Geographic Information System Specialist

GISS decorative banner: photos depicting GISS position. GISS Position Description: The Geographic Information System Specialist is responsible for providing timely and accurate spatial information to the Situation Unit Leader about the incident to be used by all facets of the IMT.

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GISS Incident Position Description

The Geographic Information System Specialist (GISS) is responsible for providing timely and accurate spatial information about the incident to be used by all facets of the Incident Management Team (IMT) and the national coordination system. The GISS reports to the Situation Unit Leader (SITL) or other assigned supervisor, and works in the Planning functional area.

The GISS will operate according to the NWCG Standards for Geospatial Operations, PMS 936, and should review the publication annually.

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Leadership Level 1, Follower (Provide Action)

  • For additional information review Level 1 description, expected behaviors and knowledge, suggested development goals, and self-study opportunities.

Prepare and Mobilize

  • Ensure individual readiness.
  • Read and demonstrate understanding of the NWCG Standards for Geospatial Operations (GeoOps), PMS 936 and NWCG GISS Workflow, PMS 936-1.
  • Secure required hardware including laptop, mouse, power strip, mobile device, and suggested hardware including external monitor, and mobile internet hot spot.
  • Install required software (ArcGIS Pro and FTP client). Ensure appropriate account credentials.
  • Gather critical information pertinent to the assignment.
  • Travel to and check in at assignment.
  • Check in with incident supervisor and/or dispatch when arriving at the incident.
  • Review Incident Action Plan (IAP) and obtain briefing, objectives, and intent from supervisor.
  • Obtain briefing from previous shift/assignment position as necessary and establish workspace.

Perform Geographic Information System Specialist-Specific Duties

  • Data Preparation:
    • Gather Incident Information data elements required to populate the National Incident Feature Service (NIFS).
    • Create the PMS 936 incident directory structure.
    • Configure the ArcGIS Pro Project Template for incident.
    • Create an Offline Copy of the NIFS for editing.
    • Follow PMS 936 naming conventions when creating or modifying incident folders and data.
    • Create and share web maps.
  • Edit Incident Data:
    • Secure information and data under the supervision of the SITL to create/edit the incident dataset.
    • Work with a variety of spatial data types (raster and vector) from multiple sources and in a variety of formats, such as services, GDBs, and shapefiles.
    • Process, convert, import incoming data; follow naming conventions; and store per PMS 936 incident directory structure.
    • Edit the Offline copy of the NIFS using ArcGIS Pro.
    • Populate all required attributes.
    • Populate the progression GDB following the GISS Workflow.
    • Perform analysis and calculate necessary attributes such as fire acres, point lat/long, ownership acres, line length, and percent containment.
  • Update Master Incident GDB:
    • Backup Offline Copy of the NIFS following the GISS Workflow.
    • Replace Master Incident GDB following the GISS Workflow.
  • Create Incident Maps and Digital Products:
    • Use ArcGIS Pro to create incident maps using the Master Incident GDB.
    • Ensure that all essential cartographic map elements are present and correct per PMS 936.
    • Produce map products following PMS 936 map product standards and incident symbology standards.
    • Export geospatial PDF maps per PMS 936.
    • Create products meeting the SITL’s timelines and priorities.
    • Backup map documents and PDF maps per PMS 936.
  • Backup and Sharing:
    • Post map products to National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) FTP site.
    • Backup incident directory structure.
    • Download and backup any external incident data sources, custom hosted feature services, and data collection forms nightly and place in an appropriate location in the incident folder structure.
    • Complete required documentation.
  • Transition:
    • Effectively transfer incident data, projects, and products to incoming team/local unit.
    • Transfer all non-NIFS data embedded in web maps and web applications to the incoming team/local unit, along with copies of data present in any web map or application.
  • Advanced Duties:
    • Manage incident data in the NIFC ArcGIS Online Organization using web maps and apps.
    • Work with ArcGIS Online and manage mobile devices using the Field Maps application (iOS & Android).
    • Work with the Survey123 for ArcGIS application and national surveys (e.g., structure triage, accountable property).
    • Make incident maps available for, and assist incident personnel in using, the Avenza Maps application (iOS & Android).
    • Troubleshoot hardware and software problems sufficient to stay operational. (e.g., basic software installs, license management, printer drivers, and plotter connection).

Communicate and Coordinate

  • Communicate and exchange technical information with people inside and outside the Situation Unit, following established processes and chain of command for collecting, producing, and distributing information. Inform others of product contents and application.
  • Answer incident situation questions such as number of acres burned, acres by ownership, or other questions requiring basic GIS analysis and geoprocessing.
  • Explain technical issues or concerns to Lead GISS, SITL or Incident Technology Support Specialist (ITSS).
  • Communicate field data collection procedures to Field Observers (FOBS), Resource Advisors (READs), and other incident staff.
  • Ensure clear understanding of expectations and timely communication within and across Incident Command System (ICS) functional areas and chain of command.
  • Demonstrate skills that establish and maintain a positive team climate.
  • Demonstrate critical thinking and decision-making skills by contributing to team tasks.
  • Participate in After Action Reviews (AAR) as requested.
  • Maintain awareness of the changing responsibilities and expectations throughout the assignment. Communicate when expectations exceed capacity, and work with SITL to adjust expectations or augment resources.
  • Communicate to SITL when map and task requests are made outside the ICS chain of command.
  • Perform assigned GISS duties within the constraints of typical incident conditions.



  • Anticipate demobilization, identify excess resources, prepare demobilization schedule, and communicate with supervisor.
  • Return equipment and supplies to appropriate unit.
  • Ensure incident and agency demobilization procedures are followed.
  • Complete demobilization checkout process before being released from the incident.
  • Upon demobilization, report status to home unit including reassignment or estimated time of arrival (ETA) to home unit.
  • Ensure incident and agency work/rest driving standards are followed.


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