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Overcoming Common GIS Challenges in a Next Generation 9-1-1 System

Earlier this month I attended the NENA 2017 conference in San Antonio, Texas. As always, it was a great event to see old friends in the industry and meet new people doing extraordinary work in public safety.

Throughout my many conversations, four challenges emerged as the most common areas where PSAPs seem to struggle with GIS and its role in Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) systems.

The common GIS challenges I heard at NENA 2017:

1) Help getting started with i3 GIS data readiness

I remember my college days when I had to write a paper and staring at the page for sometimes a couple of hours before I wrote that first sentence. Once I was able to get the first sentence down, the rest of the paper usually flowed pretty well. GIS Data Readiness is similar in that, often the first step is the most challenging but once taken, the rest of the process often flows relatively well. At West, we’ve helped many PSAPs take this first step to ensure GIS data is ready for use in an NG9-1-1 environment. Our A9-1-1® routing and Transitional Data Management Services are designed to get your GIS data i3-ready while “keeping the lights on” with your legacy system.

2) Improving GIS data when incomplete or unfit

I see this a lot in my work with GIS analysts and 9-1-1 administrators. This challenge often arises at the county, regional, or State levels. As GIS data frequently needs to be sourced from multiple agencies and commercial sources, there is often varying degrees in data quality. Therefore, it’s imperative to have the tools in place to effectively coalesce disparate data sets and identify gaps and errors though quality control processes. For example, in a Legacy 9-1-1 environment, ALI records are validated against the MSAG to ensure proper call routing. However, in an NG9-1-1 system, calls are routed using GIS data. A tool such as West’s MapSAG® solution can provide agencies with the validation capabilities necessary to ensure quality GIS data for call routing and data correction.

3) Creating GIS data

This is perhaps the biggest challenge that a 9-1-1 administrator faces when implementing an NG9-1-1 system. Do you need a point, polygon, or parcel data set to fill the gap? West’s team of GIS analysts can help in this common scenario. We’ve been creating GIS data sets for agencies for over 20 years and are experts in creating the i3 ready GIS data for use in NG9-1-1 systems.

4) Ongoing GIS data maintenance

Ongoing data maintenance is essential for keeping your database viable and your operations efficient. Because GIS data can change frequently due to the impacts of new construction, jurisdictional boundary shifts and rezoning, PSAPs need to identify a process that ensures their data is adequately maintained. We can partner with you to develop a maintenance plan that keeps your GIS data up-to-date for accurate 9-1-1 location validation, call routing and mapping.

Our team of experienced GIS Data Services professionals is focused on helping public safety agencies gain control of the increased demands for accurate geospatial data, data management, quality assurance and maintenance of public-safety-grade GIS data. By leveraging proprietary processes and tools to proactively eliminate inaccurate data, we can help you build the foundational GIS layers necessary for the appropriate emergency response.

GIS DATA READINESS FOR NG9-1-1 is top of mind for us at the upcoming Esri User Conference in San Diego, July 10-14. I’ll be there in booth #2120. Stop by! Help me understand your specific challenges and we can work together to sort out next steps for your particular situation.

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.

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