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Case Study

Creating a National Population Database for Northern Ireland

The Client

Government Radiological Incident Monitoring Network (RIMNET)

The Problem

HSL's Geographical Information Systems team (GIS) were approached by RIMNET to develop a National Population Database (NPD) tool for Northern Ireland, similar to the UK product that the team has already created and been using over a number of years.

The NPD is a very powerful aid in estimating population patterns around the UK and provides estimates of population from a 100-metre grid to an individual building basis for most population types. The tool also provides distinction between population figures at different times of day, week and year and different sensitivity levels.

What We Did

The GIS team took on this task within the customer's relatively short time scale and created an extremely useful addition to the NPD suite.

The initial work in creating the Northern Ireland NPD involved identifying potential sources of population and locational data and then obtaining these for use in creating the NI NPD. Geographical data was obtained from Ordnance Survey Northern Ireland (OSNI) as well as census data from NISRA (Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency) for the residential layer. Statistics for hospitals, schools and colleges were obtained from the relevant bodies and used alongside the OSNI data to create the other layers.

The data was manipulated and then the geographic and population datasets were combined to create unique layers in the NPD. These include residential points, residential 100m grid, schools, colleges, hospitals and workplaces.


The NI NPD data was used by RIMNET to support a nuclear exercise in March 2013. It provided the detail and resolution they required to fully inform their processes.

The NPD data enabled RIMNET to identify potential people at risk in the event of an emergency and to adjust their plans accordingly. RIMNET lies at the heart of the UK's National response Plan and so knowing the whereabouts of a variety of populations is essential for the effective coordination of emergency response.

The GIS team intends to explore the potential to develop NPD tools for other countries and regions in the future and is now in an excellent position to be able to do this.

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