GIS data is a vital component to the 9-1-1 system and will become even more important with the arrival of Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1). Just like the human body and automobiles, testing the components and preventative care often pinpoint symptoms that may need to be corrected to avoid a sudden breakdown or long-term issues. Within a 9-1-1 system, equipment and components are tested for performance and reliability. GIS data should be no different as it provides important information to help 9-1-1 call takers determine the location of a 9-1-1 caller.
As L.R. Kimball outlined in a recent white paper, many 9-1-1 directors have concerns about the accuracy of their GIS data. Accurate data is paramount to assuring that first responders are sent to the correct location, errors in datasets could raise the risk of potential delays or misrouted emergency response. News stories have described incidents when emergency responders are sent to an incorrect address, causing critical delays that have led to loss of property and even loss of life.
GIS data plays an important role in helping to locate 9-1-1 callers, yet many PSAPs do not know the level of accuracy of their GIS data or know what symptoms exist that could put them at risk. Examples of addressing errors include duplicate road names and addresses, incomplete address ranges, overlapping ranges, unaddressed road, standardization issues, misspellings and/or inconsistent road names and addresses across databases.
GIS data will become increasingly more important in NG9-1-1, which is being built on Internet Protocol (IP)-based technology. GIS data will play an additional role in NG9-1-1 as it will be the GIS data that will be used to route the call, where data accuracy will be more important than ever.
Rather than waiting to discover an address error during a 9-1-1 call, there are ways for 9-1-1 directors and staff to assess the accuracy of their datasets and pinpoint symptoms that can be corrected in a pro-active manner.
- Data checks can be performed to pinpoint existing issues within data systems, either in-house or by contracting outside help. This assessment provides a starting point for effective GIS planning. Once the types and numbers of errors are known, a PSAP can devise a plan to correct them.
- Another important aspect of data accuracy and data maintenance is the adherence to the most current database standards for 9-1-1 addressing. Adhering to the latest industry standards allows data to be formatted in a way that will work most effectively across many of the 9-1-1 systems that rely on GIS data.
- Establishing an effective maintenance plan is critical to long term sustainability of data accuracy levels. An effective maintenance plan covers all of the processes from the time a new address is assigned to the time the data is added to the GIS datasets and those updates reflected in the CAD systems for 9-1-1 calls.
GIS experts at L.R. Kimball urge public safety officials to consider investing in GIS data and to perform an assessment of GIS data to gain a starting point and uncover any issues that might exist. This is the best first step to begin planning and prioritizing for any required improvements to achieve long-term success, minimize overall risks, and advance towards the accuracy needed in NG9-1-1.