Calibrating the Compass: Using GIS for Faster 9-1-1 Response

From left to right, Senator Cheryl Kagan, Jack Markey, Matthew Sokol, Kathy Lewis, and Patrick Callahan

Most 9-1-1 centers determine a mobile caller’s location based on technology that was adopted two decades ago…before cell phones were equipped with GPS. Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) will deliver more accurate location data – similarly to how apps like Uber can pinpoint your exact location – which will allow calls to be routed to the correct jurisdictions faster, potentially saving lives. NG911 will rely on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for call routing, call handling, call delivery, location validation, and emergency response.

During the 2018 MACo Summer Conference panel “Calibrating the Compass: GIS in a Next Gen 9-1-1 World” attendees learned best practices for assessing, planning, and developing maintenance routines to keep GIS data NG911 compliant.

Jack Markey, Director, Division of Emergency Management, Frederick County, began the session by providing an overview of GIS and NG911. Mr. Markey also discussed why GIS will be critical to the transition to NG911 and the intersection of the “old world” and the “new world” of public safety communications.

Kathy Lewis, GIS Specialist, Fire and EMS Communications, Charles County, talked about some of the challenges counties face with GIS. She also discussed 1Spatial – GIS diagnostic software purchased by the ENSB (Emergency Numbers System Board) and made available to each Maryland county by the Maryland Department of Information Technology (DoIT) and MapSAG – GIS diagnostic software purchased by individual jurisdictions as part of procurement of the ESINet package.

Jack Markey, Director, Division of Emergency Management, Frederick County

Matthew Sokol, GIS Program Manager, Maryland Department of Information Technology, discussed the platform provided by the State for NG911 data validation, correction, and standardization. Mr. Sokol also talked about the importance of providing a centralized platform for data validation, correction, and standardization.

Patrick Callahan, GIS Manager, Office of Information Technology, Prince George’s County and Chair, Maryland State Geographic Information Committee (MSGIC), concluded the panel by discussing the role of MSGIC as a conduit between state and local governments. Mr. Callahan also described the role of MSGIC in ensuring GIS compliance and the work that MSGIC is doing to help Maryland transition to a statewide NG911 network.

The session was moderated by Senator Cheryl Kagan and was held on Thursday, August 16. The 2018 MACo Summer Conference was August 15-18, 2018 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, MD. This year’s theme was “Water, Water Everywhere.”