The City of Edmonton is Canada’s fifth-largest city and home to over 1 million people in Alberta. In a recent webinar, Brandon Mol, Manager of the City’s Geospatial Information Program, shared his team’s journey to prepare for Canada’s new Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) GIS data requirements. This blog post highlights some of the key learnings and work that the City has done.
My name is Brandon Mol and I'm the manager of our Enterprise Geospatial Information Program here at City of Edmonton. Today, I'm going to discuss some of the challenges we've had and the things we've done so far [for NG9-1-1].
I want to acknowledge that NG9-1-1 readiness is really a multi-disciplinary and highly complex journey. It involves physical network equipment and cabling, IP call handling technology, dispatch, software modernization, GIS integration, and much, much more.
Small organizations will probably be faced with financial and resourcing challenges doing this work but far less bureaucratic uncertainty. Perhaps the CAO sits down the hall. Large organizations will have the resources but struggle more with mandate clarity, roles and responsibilities, identifying processes, getting the right people in the room, and navigating the organization.
Medium-sized organizations may have the worst of both worlds, so I'll start with that. Some of our biggest challenges are not technical things. GIS data standards, system integrations—those things are easy. They're predictable and they're just work.
Relationships and business processes are the hard things here. Clarity on exactly what we need to do and when we need to do it by is probably the largest challenge within our organization.
It was unclear who was responsible for what and maybe most importantly, “Why”. Where's the mandate coming from? During our 2023 budget hearings, for example, one of our councilors asked the question, “Why does the city need to do this as this looks like a telecom responsibility, based on what I see on the CRTC website?” It’s a good point because it isn't clear how that trickles down to municipalities.
This slide applies to Alberta only, but I wanted to share it because it may help some of you who are struggling with this. The CRTC has no jurisdiction whatsoever over municipalities or any other form of local government. The connection here is your NG9-1-1 servicing agreement that every LGA (Local Government Authority) will enter into with your Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC). In that process you're going to designate the data aggregator if it is not your ILEC.
NG9-1-1 GIS Readiness Assessment
About a year ago or a year and a half ago, we completed our GIS Readiness Assessment with the Esri Canada team. This was really important for us for two reasons: it gave us a work plan and feeds into our business case for the next phase of this large project. Second, and maybe even more important, is it really helped us forge the relationships and created the list of stakeholders that we need to know and communicate with. Before this, nobody knew who to talk to. It was very siloed, and this really helped bring everybody together and understand who the players were.
NG9-1-1 Local Government Service Agreement with TELUS
We entered into our servicing agreement. We identified our contact at TELUS. This was really a big one and we worked through that agreement and went through our Legal.
One of the things we identified in this process was that there actually wasn't an existing 9-1-1 service agreement of any form for Edmonton. 9-1-1 exists right now because of the hard work and dedication of many people based purely on good faith and common sense. There's actually no contract of any kind in place that makes this happen so one big piece here was getting this agreement drafted, cleared through Legal, and then on the desk of the City Manager. We did a series of education campaigns internally with different levels of management to get them to understand why this was really important.
New GIS Position for NG9-1-1 Compliance
Since our Readiness Assessment, we've created a new permanent position on our GIS team dedicated solely to NG9-1-1 compliance. The title is Senior GIS Data Analyst for NG9-1-1 Compliance. The focus of this position is on getting us compliant and keeping us compliant. It's operational in nature and has advisory functions as well, so this is really keeping an eye on the situation of NG9-1-1, what requirements are out there, and interpreting them so we can turn it into other operational work within our GIS team. This person is also the liaison and primary contact for GIS public safety data for our various partners: TELUS, fire, police, peace officers, and EMS for dispatch and operational needs, and our neighboring municipalities for that data alignment and integration.
Incorporated NENA Standards into GIS
Additionally, we've incorporated NENA standards directly into our completely new enterprise GIS. We have been in the process of completely rebuilding our enterprise GIS, both the technology platform but also all of the business processes and change management and training framework. In that process we've designed a NENA compliant data model right in the backend so we're making the data formatted in a way that we don't really have to ETL it very much.
ArcGIS to Manage Addressing and Roads
We've been implementing new software tooling to enable reliable maintenance of the street network and address data. We chose to build a custom hybrid of the Address Data Management and Roadway Management solutions for ArcGIS Pro. We're editing in ArcGIS Pro via ArcGIS Enterprise feature services, branch versioning with full history and time-aware data warehousing using attribute rules for constraints, calculations, and validations of our data. We're using Data Reviewer for that as well.
Things We Need to Do
We have data corrections and enhancements—many of them! We have address range data misalignment with reality, we have routing issues, directionality, intersection topology, restrictions, and more.
Large sites such as large parks or even the West Edmonton Mall, which occupies 48 city blocks, need to have some virtual street segments inside of the parking lots in order to be able to navigate emergency vehicles to the correct entrance. I think there's 56 entrances to the mall.
Relocating site address points where site address points are kind of arbitrarily placed on parcels. This causes some routing issues for some legacy routing products in our dispatch system. So, we need to make sure that we align those to be consistent distance from site frontage.
We need to figure out how to exchange data with TELUS and our PSAP. I know this isn't all nailed down, but this is one of the things to be determined. Is it FTP or web services? What's the file format or web service API structure? What’s the cadence? Are we pushing or pulling the data and who initiates that? We have no idea right now, so this is something that is not urgent but it's on our radar. We're making sure that we are resourced for that.
To watch the recorded webinar in its entirety, visit this link. For any questions related to your municipality’s journey to becoming ready for NG9-1-1, or to request more information on the NG9-1-1 GIS Readiness Assessment, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.