How to Make the Most of GIS Data

In Blog by Daniel Biagé | VP of R&D May 24, 2018

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Daniel Biagé explains how PSAPs can combine geographic information system (GIS) data and sophisticated mapping to locate callers faster.

It’s no secret that most PSAPs still rely on information from Automatic Location Information (ALI) and Master Street Address Guide (MSAG) databases to determine caller location. However, as more and more people use mobile phones and text messages to contact 9-1-1, these traditional sources become dangerously inadequate. Media outlets have highlighted the tragic results that can result from insufficient and inaccurate location information.[1] 

The good news is that Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) systems will bring PSAPs far more precise location capabilities. NG9-1-1 systems combine detailed geographic information system (GIS) data with sophisticated visual mapping to give call takers new visibility into each caller’s exact location. 

To make the most of these new capabilities, PSAPs must look at both sides of the location equation. 

Develop a Complete, Accurate, and Consistent GIS Database

The information needed to populate NG9-1-1 GIS databases already exists in various databases and formats. The challenge for PSAPs is to find it, analyze it, and rework it to meet the NENA standard for GIS data. 

The best place to start is the local assessor’s office. However, because the GIS data generated by the assessor’s office was not developed for 9-1-1 purposes, you’ll also likely have to contact other municipal offices, other levels of government, and private corporations to get all of the data you need. 

Once you acquire the GIS data, it must be thoroughly audited to determine how much effort is required to bring it up to the NENA GIS data model standard. Depending on the volume and accuracy of the data, this task can take days or weeks. A 9-1-1 GIS expert is really the only person who has the knowledge and skills needed to audit and adapt the GIS data to meet the NENA standard. 

Once the GIS database complies with the standard, you must ensure that it remains compliant. Depending on the population of your jurisdiction, updates may be required quarterly, monthly, weekly, or even daily. 

Give Call Takers Easy Access to GIS Data

An NG9-1-1 call handling and management system with sophisticated mapping puts GIS data just a click away. For example, call takers can isolate and view GIS information in layers to show only certain locations, such as schools, banks, or shopping centers. And they can easily zoom in and out and pan around the map view. 

The most sophisticated systems allow call takers to prioritize, answer, and manage calls from within the mapping application. Now they can:

  • Instantly identify call location and status — queued, ringing, abandoned, answered, on-hold, muted, and privacy — to make more informed call handling decisions
  • Automatically see more precise caller location information over time as the confidence radius provided by the network improves
  • Automatically zoom to the active call location when the call is answered
  • Visually track caller location on the map as the caller moves
  • Filter calls on the map to hide calls with particular statuses
  • Visually identify which call taker is handling each in-progress call on the map 

The ability to quickly pinpoint caller location can have dramatic results. In one case, call takers were able to accurately predict which bank would be targeted next in a sequence of robberies because they could see the geographic pattern of the 9-1-1 calls about the previous robberies on the map. In another case, a call taker was able to send police a photo of the caller’s location on the map that was so precise, police were able to locate and apprehend the suspect in less than 15 minutes. 

Get More Information

Instant access to accurate caller location information is crucial during all 9-1-1 calls, and while E9-1-1 technologies and traditional databases are still used to find people, they are not appropriately equipped to properly handle today's caller's technologies or behaviours.

To learn more about making the most of GIS data, read our white paper:
Locating Callers Faster: Optimizing GIS Data and Mapping to Pinpoint Caller Location

Download the White Paper



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