Creating an Offline Copy

The National Incident Feature Service (NIFS) is designed to be used on incidents of any size. This will help with streamlining data sharing, quick deployment of ArcGIS Online and mobile data collection apps, and transitioning between teams.

Editing the NIFS is essential to the role of a GISS. This is accomplished through the use of Offline Copies. An Offline Copy is a downloaded subset of data from the NIFS which can be edited like a regular geodatabase and then synced with the service to apply the changes and pull down other’s updates.

Even though they allows for multiple simultaneous editors, Feature Service and Offline Copy edits have none of the conflict protection or resolution capabilities of a truly versioned environment. Great care must be taken not to overwrite other user data.

Best practices for editing the NIFS include:

  • Only ever download and/or edit an incident you are assigned to.
  • Sync immediately before and after each editing session. Limit editing sessions to short time periods. Sync can be performed any time during editing session.
  • If there are multiple editors, establish clear geographic, and/or temporal boundaries and communicate frequently.
    • E.g. GISS 1 will only edit features within Branch I, while GISS 2 will only edit features within Branch II.
    • E.g. GISS 2 will not begin afternoon edits until GISS 1 has confirmed that morning edits are completed and synced.
  • Educate field data collectors on editing conflicts and coordinate their assignments to avoid them. Geographic boundaries work best for field editors.
    • E.g. FOBS 1 will only edit features within DIV A, while FOBS 2 will only edit features within DIV Z.
  • Extra care and communication should be paid to suppression repair tracking to ensure READs and other field editors do not conflict.
    • E.g. READs should not be assigned to update suppression repair status and notes in areas where FOBS or others are updating operational data. If assigned to the same area, field editors should work together to complete both objectives.

For examples of conflicts and GISS Watch-Out situations, see the section Offline-Editing Conflict Resolution in the National Incident Feature Services and Hosted Feature Services.

Steps to Create an Offline Copy

Because Pro has two-way sync capability, remember to always sync before starting an edit session to pull in the most recent data. Otherwise, the data on the map is as old as your last sync.

Basic workflow to connect to the GISS Edit Service and download an Offline Copy:

  1. Sign into your NIFC AGOL account in ArcGIS Pro.
  2. Add the GISS Edit Service to the Map:
    1. Option 1:  From the Catalog pane
      1. Click on Portal then the cloud with the star (My Favorites) icon.
      2. Right-click the GISS Edit Service and select Add to Current Map.
        Adding the GISS Edit service from the Catalog pane. The Portal button and Add to Current Map are highlighted.
        Note: To add the GISS Edit Service to the My Favorites menu, open the item details page in AGOL and click Add to Favorites under the thumbnail:
        Adding the GISS Edit Service from ArcGIS Online using Add to Feature button.
      3. The service can also be added by searching for GISS Edit Service (using quotes will return more specific results).
        Adding the GISS Edit Service by searching the Organization. Organization button and GISS Edit Service (National Incident Feature Service 2021) highlighted.
        1. Find the service in the results. Hovering will display additional information. The NIFS layers are all owned by the NIFC_Authoritative account.  Right-click and select Add to Current Map.
          Additional information about the GISS Edit Service from a mouse hover.
          Add Hosted GISS Edit 2020 to the current map by right clicking on the feature and selection "Add To Current Map".
    2. Option 2:  Add the GISS Edit Service by URL with Add Data from Path.
      1. On the Map ribbon tab, open the Add Data dropdown and select Add Data from Path.
        Add "Data from Path" by selecting "Add Data" and then section "Data From Path" in ArcPro.
      2. Copy/paste the URL path to the  GISS Edit Service (National Incident Feature Service 2021) into the dialogue box.

        Both the NIFC Org item page (GISS Edit Service (National Incident Feature Service 2021) ( - login required).and the REST URL will work.
  3. Create an Offline Copy.

    In Pro, feature services can be edited directly. This is a good option for some minor edits, but an Offline Copy will still be needed to create the Master Incident GDB. For the best editing performance, avoid editing services directly and create an Offline Copy.
    1. Zoom into the incident area and click Download Map on the Map ribbon. There should be a triangle in Event Polygon, auto generated from IRWIN data for every new incident, that can be used as a starting point. It will already contain the correct IRWIN and Incident IDs.
      The Download Map button highlighted on the ribbon with an autogenerated triangle perimeter in the extent.
  4. Once the download is complete, change the Contents pane to List by Data Source and confirm that the source for GISS Edit Service (National Incident Feature Service 2021) is now a local database.
    The GISS Edit Service listed by Data Source in the Contents pane highlighted.
  5. The Offline Copy will be automatically created in the Home folder (which is set to the main incident folder). Do not move or rename it.

    If preferred, the download location can be set to prompt each time or the default location can be updated to the incident_data\edit folder in the project settings.
    ArcGIS Pro Options window on the Share and Download tab with the Offline Maps settings highlighted.
    Note:  The Offline Copy is not a File GDB. It is a Mobile Geodatabase (aka Runtime GDB). ArcGIS Pro works natively with this format. However, its capabilities are limited, and it will need to be converted to a File GDB for backups and use as the Master Incident GDB.

    For more information on how to convert to a File GDB, see the document Converting Runtime GDBs to File GDBs.
  6. Unlike in ArcMap, an Offline Copy in Pro can sync with the service more than once. There is no need to create a new one each time.

    For more information on working with an Offline Copy in ArcGIS Pro, see the document How To Edit a Feature Service in ArcGIS Pro.
    The Sync button highlighted.

Note: It is critical to Sync before and after each editing session. Syncing before will pull down any edits that have been made since the last sync. Not doing so will greatly increase the chances of a conflict and data being overwritten.

The re-creation of a new Offline Copy may be necessary to account for an expanded area of interest. As a fire grows, it will likely be necessary to re-create the Offline Copy for a larger or different area. 

Before doing so, remove the existing Offline Copy.

ArcGIS Pro ribbon Offline box with Remove highlighted.

Note: This will delete the associated mobile geodatabase. Do not remove an Offline Copy that has not been synced or data will be lost.

Zoom to the new area of interest and use the Download Map function to create a new Offline Copy.

Note: Multiple Offline Copies can be created in the same map, but this is not a recommended practice. Clicking Download Map multiple times will result in multiple mobile geodatabases created in the incident file directory.


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