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Essential GIS - The Future is Now!

An integrated approach to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is essential to Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). There are many benefits to be realized – geospatial routing, data sharing, precise address referencing and more.

What is GIS?

Simply stated, GIS is a computer system that captures, stores, checks and displays data relevant to locations on the surface of the Earth. Many different types of data can be displayed on one map in layers; layers are represented by points, lines or polygons. GIS makes it easier to visualize our world. GIS helps us see, analyze and understand trends and relationships, revealed in the form of maps, globes, reports and charts.

GIS combines information existing or occurring in space, or “spatial”. The Geographic component is the “where” part of this equation. Add “Information” which indicates a particular address point. The “System” consists of a set of processes executed on raw data to make it more useful in decision-making.

Impact on Public Safety

GIS is a key element of the National Emergency Number Association’s (NENA) i3 specification for NG9-1-1. In an i3-based NG9-1-1 environment, locally sourced GIS data will operate within the 9-1-1 call flow, serving as the foundation for all 9-1-1 location validation, call routing and mapping.

GIS is not new to public safety. As wireless 9-1-1 calls increased, GIS became an indispensable tool to provide call takers a visual way to locate callers using X/Y coordinates. One major difference between Legacy and NG9-1-1 systems is that with E911, GIS data is applied after the call. With NG9-1-1, GIS data is applied before the call.

Traditionally, three main functions were served by E911 location database systems – Master Street Address Guide (MSAG) validation; Assignment of Emergency Service Number (ESN) for call routing and selective transfers; and Automatic Location Identification (ALI) associated with the 9-1-1 caller’s telephone number (TN).

In NG9-1-1, GIS will create and maintain the MSAG. Database changes will begin with GIS data. And, because caller location will arrive with the 9-1-1 call in the form of polygons with associated contact information, GIS allows complete integration into the PSAP’s (Computer Aided Dispatch) CAD equipment.

GIS-provided spatial intelligence improves emergency response by more precisely identifying the location of the 9-1-1 call. Moving from a tabular data management system to more comprehensive GIS spatial data management is not a quick step. The task of building a comprehensive, accurate, locally-sourced GIS database will take time. Public safety agencies can begin preparing their data now, no matter where they are in their transition to a fully-realized, i3 compliant NG9-1-1 environment.

Are you ready? You can prepare your PSAP for the benefits and challenges of GIS for NG9-1-1. For a checklist, and to learn more about the what-why-how of GIS for NG9-1-1, download NG9-1-1: The Essential Guide to Getting Started here.

New to West Corporation, David Peck is a Sr. Account Executive in the Safety Services Division. His primary focus is to promote understanding of the impact Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can have on emergency communications now and in the future. He is passionate about helping the public safety community learn how to optimize GIS operations within the Next Generation 9-1-1 call continuum for location validation, call routing and mapping.

David will be at 2016 NENA in Indianapolis, June 13-16. Please stop by Booth #302 to meet him and learn more about how to resource and optimize GIS in your PSAP.

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