NG9-1-1 Back to Basics: What is GIS?

Posted on Mar 01, 2021

For decades, Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) has been referred to as “The Future of The 9-1-1 Industry.” Government officials and industry experts have worked tirelessly to roll out NG9-1-1 in the United States. Still, after years of planning, only a fraction of our nation’s Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) have been able to adopt this technology.

It’s time for a nationwide upgrade. If you are interested in deploying a cloud-based solution or need help talking to your elected officials about this critical technology, this series will give you the information you need to evaluate, approve, and implement an effective system for your region.

So what is GIS, and how will it transform PSAPs across the country?

Accurate Location Based Reporting For 9-1-1 Centers

Have you seen our previous Back to Basics posts: Why Do We Need Next Gen 9-1-1?, What Are Next Generation Core Services?, What Is An ESInet? In them, we’ve explained that NG9-1-1 gives PSAPs the ability to respond to emergencies with 21st Century telecommunications tools, such as 24/7 network availability, accurate location reporting, and real-time text, photo, and video submissions. That data is delivered through Next Generation Core Services (NGCS), software components housed on an Emergency Services IP Network called the ESInet.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) play a crucial role in NG9-1-1 systems because they support two of NGCS’s most valuable components: the Location Validation Function and the Emergency Call Routing Function. Legacy 9-1-1 networks do not use GIS data today for call routing. GIS is the foundation for routing and delivering 9-1-1 calls in the NG environment.

One fundamental change between the legacy and next generation systems is how we receive the caller’s location. We retrieve the location using the ALI Controller from the Service Provider’s database in the legacy system. Next Generation systems provide the caller’s location with the voice call. Since the caller’s location is delivered with the call, GIS becomes a core function of Next Generation 9-1-1, and calls are geospatially routed to the destination PSAP based on the caller’s location.

Next Generation 9-1-1 also introduces a fundamental, strategic change to the method of call routing and delivery. As we all know, the legacy 9-1-1 infrastructure is based on a tabular database - the Master Street Address Guide – and analog, circuit-switched hardware – the telephone company’s Selective Router.

In the Next Generation, Geographic Information Systems – developed locally – form the basis for caller location determination and call routing. The location of the caller’s device can then be used for routing the call to the proper PSAP and avoid the need to transfer calls on the edge of PSAP boundaries. With GIS at its core, Next Generation 9-1-1 becomes a location-driven system, using the local GIS data to verify location and to route calls.

Legacy call routing is done with ESNs (an Emergency Service Number used by the Selective Router to selectively route a 9-1-1 call). Today, wireless call routing is likely to be the cell tower or the sector address, not the caller’s actual location. As a result, wireless calls often misroute, forcing callers to be transferred to the correct PSAP by the call taker, which ultimately delays access to emergency services. Today, many PSAPs utilize a GIS mapping system for dispatching purposes, but NG9-1-1 uses GIS data within the call routing algorithm, improving accuracy. NG9-1-1 uses GIS data to provide accurate location reporting services, including:

  • Accurate call routing based on the caller’s location to make sure that each caller is connected with the appropriate PSAP the first time.
  • Geospatial call routing, along with other elements of the i3 architecture, can vastly improve our ability to provide mutual aid in the event of large-scale disasters and improve our ability to obtain and share information on a daily basis.
  • Layered maps that can be used to identify first responders and other municipal resources to aid dispatching and navigation for first responders, cutting down the time it takes to provide critical services to those who need them most. We hope to clarify any confusion around the vital role that GIS plays in nex gen systems. If you would like additional information about this or any of the other components of Next Generation 9-1-1, please let us know. It is our pleasure to assist.

Are You Ready For Next Gen?

NGA 911 is committed to bringing secure, affordable, and effective NG9-1-1 technology to communities worldwide. Contact us today to find the perfect solution for your community!