Directory Structure


This page describes required directory structure minimum for GIS data and related documents created and used on incidents managed under the Incident Command System. The standard presented here support a consistent directory structure that is clear and repeatable, that promotes efficient use and storage of GIS data, and that ensures a smooth transition between GIS Specialists by making it easy to locate data or products. This structure may be used both by incident GIS Specialists and by GIS professionals at the home unit of the incident. The intention is to allow some scalability for variation of incident situation, such as in number of Geographic Information System Specialist (GISS)​ personnel, hardware use/availability, software used, available data, and even physical location, while still meeting the business needs of those with whom the GISS cooperates.


  • Folder names must not contain spaces, special characters, or periods.
  • The underscore “_” is the only allowable character for delimiting name elements.
  • Capital letters may be used to make names easier to understand.
    • First letter of proper names (e.g., Jones)
    • First letter to delimit multiple words (e.g., ClearCreek, IntenseHeat) (often called “CamelCase”)
    • All letters that stand for something (e.g., GPS)
  • The format for dates is eight digits in year, month, day order (yyyymmdd).
  • The format for time is four digits in a 24-hour format (hhmm).
  • The incident directory structure may be stored in any location.
  • According to agency needs, files for multiple incidents may be stored under an optional root folder named: \[yyyy]_incidents.

[yyyy_Incidents] (e.g., 2020_Incidents)

[yyyy_incident_name] (e.g., 2020_maple)

base_data (base data not created on the incident, which do not require daily backup)

basemaps (topo maps, tile packages, scanned maps)

elevation (digital elevation model and hill shade data)

logos (agency logos, typically in nongeospatial raster format)

orthoimagery (ortho-corrected imagery)

vector (vector data file types)

documents (e.g., spreadsheets, text documents, unit log, digital photos used on maps)

incident_data (data created on or for the incident)

[subject_directory] (optional/additional folder e.g., rehab/repair, sensitive data)

backups (date- and time-stamped backup incident geodatabases from incident geodatabase for disaster recovery purposes)

edit (contains geodatabase used for editing to avoid edit locks with Master Incident Geodatabase)

Edit Incident Geodatabase (used for editing when no internet connectivity is available)

exports (date- and time-stamped incident geospatial data export files)

final (final date- and time-stamped incident geospatial data export files for use by the hosting agency or other local organizations)

gps (GIS data from field GPS downloads)

ir (spatial data created by IRINs)

layer files (layer files storing feature templates or incident symbology)

Feature Template Layer File.lyrx (one for each GISS)

modified_base_data (base data edited for the incident, e.g., roads, ownership, and structures)

Master Incident Geodatabase (the most current geodatabase used as the source for all incident maps. This geodatabase should not be edited)

Other Incident Geodatabase (an additional geodatabase that contains incident-specific feature classes, such as Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs)​ or escape routes)

Annotation Geodatabase(s) (one or more geodatabases for storing annotation)

Progression (geodatabase for storing progression data)

products (GIS map (e.g., .jpg, .pdf) and other product files produced on the incident)

[yyyymmdd] (all map products for the intended date of use, not the date of creation)

final (copies of all final map products for the incident)

projects (GIS product map document (e.g., .mxd) files)

backups (backup map document files (.mxd) copied from master map document files)

pro_log_files (folder storing ArcGIS Pro project log and temp index files)

Edit Project (.mxd or .aprx, one for each GISS)

Master Project (.mxd or .aprx, one for each map product)

tools (extensions, tools, or other software tools used on the incident)

templates (project, layer, and other pre-configured templates)

pro default toolbox (ArcGIS Pro required toolbox)

The following is an image of the directory structure on a computer, showing folders and databases

Image of directory structure as described above



The GISS communicates the directory structure used on an incident to other GIS Specialists, including the hosting unit GIS staff and regional GIS staff. On an incident, the Situation Unit Leader​ (SITL) (or, in the absence of a SITL, the Planning Section Chief or Type 3 or Type 4 Incident Commander) ensures that individuals working in the Situation Unit follow NWCG standards, including directory structure conventions. NWCG standards represent a national interagency standard and should not be overridden at the incident level.


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