In the State of Florida, NG9-1-1 is governed at the local and regional levels. Florida’s 67 counties are divided into seven regions, allowing the counties in each region to pool funding and resources to implement initiatives at scale. In early 2018, Florida Region 1 was tasked with piloting a process for regional geographic information systems (GIS) and NGCS deployment which would provide a template for the rest of the State to follow. The creation of regional GIS repositories, GIS data creation, GIS data remediation, and ongoing GIS support became top priorities for Region 1.

Florida Region 1’s vision for a central GIS repository
Historic Hurricane Michael made landfall in October 2018


Early in the planning process, Region 1 identified several system vulnerabilities related to natural disasters which had the potential to impact PSAP operations and staffing, continuity of operations, call handling, and selective routing of incoming 9-1-1 calls.

Later in 2018, Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 Hurricane, made landfall. This storm would become the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle, realizing and exacerbating the vulnerabilities identified for Region 1’s NG9-1-1 initiatives and forcing the Region to accelerate its planning process. Region 1’s 9-1-1 Coordinators and Directors, Addressing Coordinators, Sheriffs, and Fire Chiefs came together to move the project out of planning and into action.

It All Started With A Plan

To enable cross-county collaboration and pass the data through a spatial interface to NGCS, Florida Region 1 set out to develop a regional GIS repository. Each of the 12 counties was managing its GIS with different partners and NGCS providers, making it critical for the repository to be truly vendor-agnostic and flexible enough to meet the unique data needs of each county. Region 1 contracted with DATAMARK to deliver the solutions and services required to accomplish this complex goal and implemented their plan in four phases:

Above are some of the results achieved through DATAMARK’s GIS services
  • Phase 1: Assess

    To develop a tangible strategic plan, DATAMARK met with each county in the region to develop an effective strategic plan which documented the Region’s current workflows, data schemas, GIS data infrastructure, and staffing capabilities.

  • Phase 2: Prepare

    Each county maintains separate GIS datasets, requiring each county’s data to be analyzed for accuracy, completeness, and NG9-1-1 readiness. DATAMARK executed multiple data preparation services for the Region 1’s counties to ensure project unity, uncovering thousands of missing addresses and eliminating gaps and overlaps.

  • Phase 3: Validate

    GIS data used in NG9-1-1 can never be truly complete, making ongoing validation an iterative process requiring all new data introduced into the system to meet NG9-1-1 standards before it’s provisioned into NGCS functional elements. In Region 1, DATAMARK prioritized NENA’s Required NG9-1-1 GIS layers and later incorporated additional layers (like forestry, coast guard, etc.) and boundaries as needed.

  • Phase 4: Aggregate

    To streamline the process of collaboration, aggregation, and data sharing between the 12 counties in Region 1, DATAMARK implemented VEP, a cloud-native NG9-1-1 GIS data management platform. The deployment of VEP across Region 1 enables each the county’s GIS authorities to upload, validate, and maintain NG9-1-1 compliant GIS data from a central location. Local GIS authorities no longer need to work on their data in one location, then drive to each PSAP to physically load it onto PSAP workstation and server equipment machine by machine.

Recipe for Success

Region 1’s engagement of DATAMARK to deliver a complete spectrum of NG9-1-1 GIS data software and service solutions was instrumental in achieving success across several key project categories, including:

Strategic Planning

DATAMARK’s NG9-1-1 Strategic Planning services provide clients with complete project oversight and transparency. The discovery process creates overall understanding of clients’ existing processes and procedures, allowing them to create plans that fit neatly into their existing workflows, processes, and policies.

Agnostic Approach

DATAMARK’s ability to deliver services and data solutions that support each county and vendor participating in the project allowed them to meet the unique needs of each local authority while accomplishing the Region 1’s overall NG9-1-1 objectives.

Ongoing Support

DATAMARK continues to support Region 1 with ongoing NG9-1-1 GIS data support services to maintain the quality, reliability, and standards-compliance of its GIS data. Additionally, Region 1 counties receive continued support from DATAMARK’s Client Success team, which delivers ongoing technical solution support, on-call assistance, and educational resources after project completion.

Next Steps

While much of the initial groundwork to achieve NG9-1-1 GIS readiness is complete, there is still work to be done in Region 1. Agencies are now experimenting with local data management workflows while working on ESInet, call handling, and other NG9-1-1 system upgrades. As their solutions become more robust, DATAMARK continues to provide Region 1 with ongoing support through monthly check-ins and is available to assist each county and regional aggregation authority when needed.

A Goal Without A Plan Is Just A Wish

A Case Study on NG9-1-1 Implementation In Merced County, CA

When the topic of Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) comes up it greatly depends on the audience as what is conjured in the mind of the hearer. For seasoned 9-1-1 professionals it’s about upgrades to networks, call handling equipment and operational workflows that will result in fewer transferred calls, faster call-processing and rich data, think photos, videos and sensor data, for dispatchers to affect life-saving emergency responses with. Unbeknownst to many 9-1-1 professionals in the weeds of achieving these ends lies a major shift in architecture that embraces geospatial functions and GIS data as core technology. This shift requires local, authoritative GIS data built to a level of precision and accuracy that local data providers have never been required to build and maintain before.

Meeting this need requires new relationships partnerships that have only been loosely established in most places. In Merced County, California Gene Barrera, the County GIS Manager, had provided GIS data for the County Sheriff’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system for years but it was in a “just pass the data you’ve got” manner whenever they called for an update. Providing GIS data for NG9-1-1 would call on Gene to reimagine his business, technical and data workflows to not only improve his data but also allow him to aggregate GIS data from his constituent incorporated cities within his County.

When I learned about the requirements for GIS data in NG9-1-1 I recognized early on the gaps needing to be filled in educating our organization about this transition, the relationships that needed to be forged amongst the various stakeholders, as well as the changes I needed to make in my workflows, systems and data to accomplish this task. I was also excited by these prospects because I found another use for GIS that would make the County’s investment in GIS pay major dividends. I also knew that I’d need some expert help to make sure I was taking the best approach possible.

– Gene Barrera, GIS Manager, County of Merced

In 2018, Gene procured the services of Michael Baker International’s DATAMARK Team to help him create a NG9-1-1 GIS Strategic Plan which would begin the relationship building of the right public safety and GIS stakeholders throughout the County and layout the path forward for the business, technical and data workflow and system adjustments that would lead to NG9-1-1 GIS success. “The strategic planning process was critical because it gave the impetus to bring all of the right people and perspectives to the table. We were able to agree on a plan. This enabled the County management team to support our vision and implementation.”

Up Next, “Get To Work!”

Once the plan was initially complete, it would be updated as a living document moving forward, it was time to get to work. The project team conducted the following activities generally:

  1. Configure: The first task was to implement system changes by implementing ArcGIS Enterprise and the right database configuration.
  2. ACE: Gathering a complete dataset is particularly useful for NG9-1-1 and other applications. DATAMARK’s Address Comparison and Evaluation (ACE) process was deployed to compare all the location information databases from across the County. Most government enterprise have treasures stored in disparate databases, most often not in a GIS format, and a number of formats. These are databases like permits, utility billing, Master Street Address Guide (MSAG) and Automatic Location Information (ALI).
  3. Validations: Next, using DATAMARK’s VEP, short for Validate-Edit-Provision, validations the project team validated the existing road centerlines and address point data. This process examined the relationships between legacy 9-1-1 databases, the MSAG and ALI, as well as road centerlines and address points. This examination showed where Merced’s GIS needed attention.
  4. Research and Edit. This pointed out places in the GIS data that needed research and, if appropriate, adjustment in either geometry or attributes. The resulting data normalizes both geometry and attribute data between datasets. This will enable consistent answers when a geocoder, either as part of a NG9-1-1 functional element or any other use case, searches for a given civic address (i.e. 123 Main St., Merced, CA) using either GIS data layer.
  5. Local Verification. This process can only go so far without a person on the ground resolving the remaining mysteries. The processes outlined above removes most of the anomalies. In many cases a simple “windshield” or “drive-by” inspection will provide the necessary clarity. These verification efforts lead to either a GIS resolution of the issue or the marking of the anomaly as an exception which acknowledges that the anomaly exists, but the GIS data reflects the real world so that it is no longer highlighted in future validation runs.
  6. VEP’s cloud-native GIS editor is workflow based to enable non-GIS users to make relevant edits to GIS data when future maintenance is required. Its quality assurance review and approval tools allow the review of edits to ensure high quality GIS data maintenance. VEP’s Software-as-a-Solution (SaaS) nature has empowered Merced County’s multi-jurisdictional approach as both public safety and GIS stakeholders to login to the platform to maintain GIS data for their respective jurisdiction allowing for a constantly available and seamlessly aggregated GIS dataset for the County and cities’ use.

The resulting remediated dataset is ready for provisioning into VEP for future maintenance.

Build The Team

Once this major workload was completed in both incorporated municipalities and unincorporated areas of the County the team had to be built. The DATAMARK Training and Product Support team supported the County as jurisdictions across the County decided to participate. The initial scope of the effort was for the unincorporated areas of the County and the Sheriff’s contract cities. Today, the city of Merced and Los Bańos as well as the Merced County Association of Governments, as proxy for the other cities, are participating in maintenance of these layers for NG9-1-1 and other uses. This took dedicated leadership from the County and determined participation by all stakeholders to bring this to fruition. The resulting regional GIS data maintenance regime has yielded GIS data for use in California’s NG9-1-1 call routing system as well as other county and city information systems.

Keys to Success

There were several key factors in the success of this effort, the most notable among them were:

  • Relationships

    Stakeholders within the locality that rarely interact had to build a rapport for the future and throughout this initial effort. These partners ranged from public safety, GIS, planning, public works and the DATAMARK team. “This effort would not have been a success without the dedicated support of folks from the cities, MCAG, and all of the public safety communications organizations across the County.” noted Barrera. “We were also able to form forge a very productive user/provider relationship with the DATAMARK team as well. They were willing to consider our needs that made the data products and software more productive for us. Through this partnership, I’m proud to have contributed to the success of all of their VEP users and to be the beneficiary of their other users’ innovations as well.”

  • Fishbone Analysis

    One of the features that sets VEP apart is the use of “fishbone” analysis to help the validations be more explicit in its differentiation of anomalies. Fishbones create geometry that connects the placed address point to the point that a geolocator would place the same address. This dataset forms a powerful analytical dataset that makes the Validate, Research and Edit phases conduct useful quality control and assurance on these GIS datasets.

  • Cloud-Native Tools

    Especially in a COVID-impacted world the ability to access the VEP platform from any location with light clients that only need to support a web browser empowers its users to be successful in their NG9-1-1, addressing or other data creation and maintenance efforts. This approach offers freedom from desktop software requirements while still supporting GIS professionals that prefer the desktop editing experience as well. “The approachable cloud-based nature of the VEP platform enabled us to integrate people that don’t want to become GIS experts. This flexibility makes for higher quality up-to-date GIS data for so many purposes.” Explained Barrera.