GIS Data Comparisons for NG9-1-1

If you’re a GIS manager and have no clue what Next Generation 911 (NG-911) is consider yourself blessed, lucky, and otherwise put up your feet and enjoy the vacation drinks. If you are not as fortunate and still don’t have a clue… NG9-1-1 is an Internet Protocol (IP)-based system that allows digital information (e.g., voice, photos, videos, text messages) to flow seamlessly from the public, through the 911 network, and on to emergency responders. I have a bit of issue with the flow seamlessly part since this requires some serious hardware, software, and people time for anything to flow at all. Where does GIS come into all of this flowing?

GIS data is ‘the’ critical element for any successful deployment and operation of a NG9-1-1 geospatial routing solution. For years local governmental entities have been developing and maintaining data for use in static 9-1-1 map display applications to plot incoming ALI locations. In the i3 (VoIP service provides would have a true IP interconnection with PSAPS) world this same data will also be required to determine the appropriate PSAP to which a live call is to be routed. Accuracy and timeliness of GIS data updates is a growing concern for i3.

Yah that about sums it up… I’m feeling the Burn and it has nothing to do with this guy.

Professionally, NG9-1-1 has been part of my life for the last five years or at least preparing for the inevitable switch-over or whatever happens when they decide to turn it on. When you’re working on GIS data that gets used in the dispatching center this is not such a scary thing. It makes sense and all of that but the work involved when you already have a pile of other work should be a concern because its’ one thing to whip your GIS data into submission but once you start comparing it to the ALI and MSAG “them things keep you up nights.”

For the past month, I’ve been stuck in NG9-1-1 lah lah land via Spatial Station (SPS).  SPS is installed as an add-in to ArcGIS Desktop. For the last month I’ve been learning how to use it and I felt like I got hit by a moving train first couple of days. We’ve been using a database maintenance system for a few years now to update addresses, roads, and boundaries but SPS bumped this up a few notches with the ability to do interactive comparisons with other data sets. It allows you to run over 50 different types of comparisons across your GIS, ALI, MSAG and other data-sets you wish to compare enforcing the latest NENA 2.1 standards. SPS also allow you to make corrections and push the changes to the 911 DBMS.

I ran a few reports couple weeks ago, took a quick peek and it wasn’t pretty. As I said “hit by a train.” I took a break last week to take care of some server security and other more pressing issues but will have to get back to my findings and where to go from here in the coming weeks. Lots of questions to answer;

  • Who will run these reports and make these corrections on a regular?
  • Where do we make the corrections? Do we still use two systems?
  • What attributes are we missing in our GIS data?
  • How much time is this going to take?
  • How much $ are we talking?

NG9-1-1 promises a faster, more flexible, resilient and scalable system.. it won’t go away and cannot be ignored. For those of us in GIS it is imperative to get involved with this sooner rather than later as people will be looking to the GIS data to be the magical glue to make that data flow. That comparison process is key to getting the GIS data ready for i3 and beyond. Will your GIS data be ready in time?


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