A Matter of Life and Data – The GIS Data Gap and Life-Critical Situations

June 20, 2018

There’s no doubt that having the correct location information can mean the difference between life and death when someone makes a 9-1-1 call.

Today, however, aging technologies, analog circuit-switched telephone networks, legacy 9-1-1 systems, and poor-quality geographic information systems (GIS) data are creating serious liabilities for communities across the U.S.

  • In many jurisdictions, systems on which first responders rely to do their jobs are passed over for upgrades due to budget constraints.
  •  Most communities and regions rely on addressing data for 9-1-1 from the telecommunications companies.
  • In many cases, counties, cities and towns simply are unable to keep pace with the ever-increasing expectations for what communities expect of their emergency services.
  • Incorrect addresses or missing address information can slow response times and endanger lives.

Next Generation 911 (NG9-1-1) will change all that. The new architecture represents an overhaul and redesign of the nation’s legacy 911 systems. It allows any telecommunications device that can connect to the internet to reach a public safety answering point (PSAP) for emergency services.

NG9-1-1 is the “next big thing” for the advancement of public safety across the nation. It promises better support for first responders – including, 9-1-1, police, fire, EMS and the GIS data providers and addressing authorities across the United States. And GIS data is the foundation of NG9-1-1 because high-quality GIS data is essential for call routing, dispatching and response. Without it, NG9-1-1 will not get off the ground.

Today, GIS data quality and availability varies wildly from community to community, but the elements that constitute quality GIS are very straightforward and include capabilities for the following:

  • Analyze and maintain the data
  • Create and update addressing information
  • Clean data with the ability to see anomalies, duplicate addresses, non-existent addresses and more.

The open-source focus of the NG9-1-1 standards provide an opportunity for technologists to free our public safety partners from the bonds of this system-forward thinking by insisting that rather than using common systems to bring interoperability we use common operating data.

Data that is not scrubbed and updated has no business being provisioned into an NG9-1-1 system. And the system itself must be easy to use by people of differing experience levels, from those with extensive GIS technical knowledge to those with limited knowledge.

As more communities work toward NG9-1-1 implementation, the importance of GIS data quality becomes increasingly obvious. However, with this new scrutiny on GIS data, many of the nation’s more than 4,900 public safety answering points (PSAPs) are realizing their data is either incomplete or of inferior quality or are finding they simply have no GIS data that can be used outside their current 9-1-1 systems.

Is your PSAP ready for NG9-1-1? DATAMARK can help assess readiness and ensure GIS data integrity.

By: Stephanie McCowat

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