Idaho’s Plan for Statewide NG9-1-1 GIS Data Readiness and Management

Story

In the spring of 2022, Idaho’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) secured funding to prepare the state’s GIS data for Next Generation 9-1-1. This effort would require extensive partnership, education, and participation from the state’s 43 PSAPs, 44 counties, and 6 regions in addition to active engagement and facilitation from the State’s GIS stakeholders. The organization swiftly contacted Idaho’s Geographic Information Officer (GIO), Wilma Robertson, housed at the Idaho Office of Information Technology Services, to collaborate on the effort and set a path forward.

Prior to her engagement with Idaho’s OEM, Wilma was unfamiliar with NG9-1-1 or the role GIS played in all of it. To successfully implement this project and provide continued support to her public safety counterparts, the GIO was required to immerse herself into the public safety universe, learn a new set of GIS standards, and collaborate with internal and external stakeholders.

Before the project commenced, the following goals were developed to keep the team on-track:

It all started with a plan

To complement these goals and ensure swift achievement, The GIO set out on a road trip across Idaho to meet with public safety agencies in-person, learn about the status of their GIS efforts and hear their recommendation on how best to execute a statewide effort. Clusters of neighboring Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) were already working together in a regional approach, which helped inform the process for moving forward. Based on the information collected during the visits and conversations, a plan was created that included the following components:

  • Adopt a SaaS solution for validation and aggregation.

    Several of Idaho’s regions were already using DATAMARK VEP for GIS maintenance, validation and aggregation. VEP enabled localities to aggregate data to their respective regions, where regional validations could be run prior to aggregating to the state.

  • Engage with Esri.

    The state worked with Esri to develop an NG9-1-1 GIS geospatial strategy and upgraded to enterprise licensing in support of their objectives.

  • Hire a team of competent GIS Analysts.

    Four GIS analysts across Idaho were hired to work with PSAPs in their respective parts of Idaho. Reporting directly to the GIO, the team embarked on a process to discover GIS data presence, maturity, and key stakeholders in each of the PSAPs.

LEFT: Wilma’s road trip stops across Idaho, RIGHT: DATAMARK VEP’s regional aggregation workflow.

Trust the process

After the plan was set, it was time to get to work. The team took the following approach to progress toward their goals:

  • Support the Idaho GIS Public Safety Technical Working Group to finalize the state NG9-1-1 data schema and have it approved by the Idaho Geospatial Council Executive Committee for official adoption
  • Research what has been done and lessons learned from other states
  • Work on boundary data with neighboring states
  • Workshop with stakeholders to assess current status, workflows and gather data
  • Compare GIS data to the National Emergency Number Association’s (NENA) standards
  • Engage DATAMARK VEP to verify data quality, identify issues between different PSAPS and aggregate up to the state
  • Clean up gaps and overlaps between local boundaries
  • Leverage the Esri addressing solution for local editing
  • Stay organized with a checklist to show progress and stay focused

Key outcomes

Through this process, the team discovered that people are the cornerstone of Next Generation 9-1-1 GIS data readiness. Wilma’s road trip across Idaho helped bring awareness to the state’s initiative, but continued communication and collaboration from public safety and GIS stakeholders are required to push it forward. Because local GIS is always changing, there is no one-and-done solution for data readiness. Local and regional stakeholders will be required to update, maintain, validate and aggregate their data in accordance with NENA standards for years to come.

NG9-1-1 GIS data readiness is an iterative process requiring robust technology solutions to support the people behind the effort. Idaho moved forward with cloud-native DATAMARK VEP because it is uniquely positioned to facilitate GIS workflows from the local level all the way up to the state. Because the GIS Analysts working on this project aggressively focused first on collecting and standardizing data from all PSAPs in Idaho, the state’s implementation of VEP took less than six months, which enabled the state to quickly move focus to data cleanup and development of workflows with the solution in place.

Recipe for success

GIS Data Analysts

Played an invaluable part in progressing the State’s GIS data toward NG9-1-1 readiness and supporting and educating local PSAPs throughout the project.

DATAMARK VEP

VEP proved to be instrumental in local GIS data validation and aggregation up to the regional and state levels.

Esri consultants

Used their expertise to create a strategy and GIS roadmap with progress markers for the state.

Stakeholders across Idaho

Provided time, advice and feedback that acted as the building blocks for this initiative.

“Having dedicated GIS Analysts located near PSAPs across the state has been crucial. This type of work is 60% communication and 40% technology and without their dedication and contributions our NG9-1-1 project would have failed.”

– Wilma Robertson, Geographic Information Officer, State Of Idaho

Next Steps

Idaho’s journey to NG9-1-1 is an ongoing effort requiring continued support from the GIO’s office and stakeholders statewide. This project represents phase one of a three-phased approach designed to establish GIS systems and local adoption. Over the next two years, the GIS contractors will pass their data maintenance workflows onto stakeholders in local PSAPs where possible, keep providing GIS support for smaller PSAPs without dedicated GIS resources for NG9-1-1 and mature workflows that integrate personal and data flows within Idaho’s PSAPs. The datasets created for this project will provide additional value for the state of Idaho and will be put to use for other statewide endeavors like Broadband.