The future of emergency response
The public safety community is experiencing a monumental shift as the transition to NG911 occurs. One significant shift is that by deploying NG911 solutions, geographic information systems (GIS) become paramount to supporting geospatial call routing. Once these systems deploy, properly maintained geospatial data at the local level will be responsible for determining which 911 center will receive the emergency call, which will reduce the number of transfers and in turn help ensure a timely response from the appropriate first responders.
The value of deploying NG911 is threefold: 1) improved call routing using local GIS data, 2) having access to data-rich call information and 3) benefiting from new ways of communication. GIS data in NG911 is life-critical and can provide data-rich call information using an improved geospatial call routing system. Additionally, dispatchers will have access to complete, consistent and high-quality addressing information so they can direct first responders to the proper emergency location. Each end result requires complete and accurate GIS data, only achievable by taking the proper steps. And it all starts with understanding the data requirements.
The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) works with professionals in public policy and public safety to facilitate the creation of NG 911. They also help establish industry standards, training, and certifications. The most recent GIS data standards were released in June 2018.
The NENA Standard for the NG911 GIS Data Model provides a framework and describes the structure (such as field names, field data types and domains) of GIS data. It provides requirements on the field names used, the properties of each field, and specific guidance on the attribution to be placed within the fields of an entity’s chosen GIS data file format.
The actual data model document provides fields, for example, that are mandatory, conditional and optional. Accordingly, the GIS data must be “transformed” into the data model schema and populated, if necessary, prior to provisioning. The result is a common standard used across the nation for interoperability and data sharing, which reduces confusion and ambiguity from unstandardized data, and provides the data structure that allows the NG911 functionality that routes calls to the correct destination.
The NENA Standard for the Provisioning and Maintenance of GIS Data to Emergency Call Routing Functions (ECRF) and Location Validation Functions describes the data quality assurance checks that should be performed on GIS data prior to provisioning into the ECRF/LVF and once you are in maintenance mode. The LVF and ECRF rely on and use GIS data for address validation with caller locations and spatial queries so calls are directed to the correct responding NG911 PSAP. Put simply, the ECRF is used to properly route 911 calls to the appropriate PSAP, while the LVF validates the location prior to a 911 call and mandates the use of the ECRF to route calls to the ESInet.
NENA’s NG911 standards also include synchronizing the Master Street Address Guide (MSAG) and Automatic Location Information (ALI) tabular databases used in today’s 911 environments with the GIS data to a 98 percent match rate. Many believe that the 98 percent match rate is good enough, however DATAMARK highly recommends going beyond the 98 percent match rate because it enables public safety organizations to support all 911 systems moving forward.
According to NENA, the primary benefits of implementing these standards include the following:
- A standardized, interoperable GIS data model that can be used nationwide.
- The validation of locations (the full street number, full street name and municipality) before a 911 call is made.
- A data structure that allows the NG911 functionality to route calls to the correct destination.
- Maintained or improved support for accurate plotting of 911 calls in public safety mapping applications for call handling purposes.
- Consistent provisioning of data to ECRF/LVFs.
- Streamlined data maintenance.
- Synchronized datasets between MSAG, ALI, and GIS in agreement to support the shift from E911 to NG911.
As a leader in government, you can and should be involved in the process of preparing for NG911 to help create a successful outcome. Here are a few recommendations you can initiate:
- Educate yourself by having a conversation with your public safety and GIS staff surrounding NG911 technology and encourage collaboration among all stakeholders.
- Understand the current health of your local GIS to identify the level of effort it will take to produce public safety grade NG911 data across all sections of GIS.
- Investigate the impacts on the local budget and explore alternate funding opportunities.
- Explore workflows across departments and breakdown unnecessary silos in order to create efficiencies and cost savings.
- Engage the public and private sector NG911 experts to seek guidance and explore services that will provide the right fit for your community.
Taking an in-depth look at the objectives and requirements of GIS in NG911 doesn’t have to be overwhelming. To create the most accurate and up-to-date GIS data, begin to form partnerships with the public safety community stakeholders at all levels of government, and be sure to collaborate with public safety and GIS industry experts to guide you in transitioning GIS data to meet the requirements of NG911.
Lisa Caldwell, public safety subject matter expert at DATAMARK, is the strategic planning sub-committee chair to the Washington State 911 Advisory Board, a logistics team member of the Southeast Washington Incident Management Team and former first responder with a career spanning more than three decades.
Ashley Buzzeo, public safety GIS subject matter expert at DATAMARK, is adjunct faculty at Towson University and the Community College of Baltimore County. She has over 15 years of experience in project management and the GIS industry, and is seasoned in utilizing geospatial products to achieve cost-efficient, effective, and relevant outcomes. In several roles with the State of Maryland, she has extensive experience with multi-jurisdictional coordination and data sharing efforts, GIS data creation and maintenance, and software development.