United Counties of Leeds and Grenville was eager to better understand their readiness for Next Generation 9-1-1 and ensure their data and processes are adequate to meet the NENA requirements.
Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) involves fundamental changes to how emergency calls are handled in Canada and will rely heavily on GIS. Currently, the available GIS data varies a great deal by region and there aren’t always consistent standards. Data quality is key to ensure the most accurate and current information is available to 9-1-1 operators, potentially saving them valuable seconds in an emergency.
The team at the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville (UCLG) was eager to better understand the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) NG9-1-1 GIS Data Model standards to ensure their data and processes are adequate to meet the requirements.
Local and regional governments are the primary source of the GIS data used in the 9-1-1 system. Public safety grade GIS data is critical because it enables geodetic routing of caller location to the nearest public safety answering point (PSAP) where the call is received by 9-1-1 dispatchers. With the majority of 9-1-1 calls coming from mobile devices, the use of GIS is also critical to get first responders to the X/Y (& eventually Z) coordinates of a calling device, so we are no longer relying on a street address.
Esri Canada has been delivering NG9-1-1 GIS Readiness Assessments across Canada to help local governments understand what their obligations are and what they still need to do prior to the transition away from legacy 9-1-1 systems by the 2025 deadline.
Located along the Saint Lawrence River in Southern Ontario, UCLG is home to approximately 100,000 residents living in 10 member municipalities. Esri Canada worked with UCLG through a discovery, analysis, and reporting process to complete a NG9-1-1 readiness assessment.
The study participants included the UCLG, the 10 local municipalities that comprise UCLG, the Kingston Central Ambulance Communications Centre, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), and the City of Brockville. Discovery included interviews with staff and key stakeholders, questionnaires, reviewing documents, and assessment of the GIS data curated by UCLG on behalf of the local municipalities.
In UCLG, the data owners / creators are typically the local municipalities. They approve road names and changes to address data. UCLG act as a custodian or aggregator and are responsible for data management and integrity. UCLG also sends this data to 9-1-1 GIS data users.
Among those users are public safety answering points (PSAPs) who rely on their computer aided dispatch (CAD) systems to dispatch first responders. However, this data inside the CAD isn’t always updated frequently. It may take months for a new road or address to be added to the CAD system.
The Ontario Provincial Police provide the PSAP service to UCLG. When a caller dials 9-1-1, the Bell system looks up the address of the caller to determine the location and forwards the call to a 9-1-1 dispatcher at the OPP. The dispatcher confirms the location and type (police, fire or EMS) of emergency and notifies the appropriate local units to dispatch the responders.
NG9-1-1 will use GIS data and the coordinates of the calling device to locate the 9-1-1 caller. This is far more accurate. Delays increase the risk of negative outcomes, even loss of life, which is why having a more accurate location is important to reach the caller quickly.
The NG9-1-1 GIS Readiness Assessment focused on the required data layers needed for routing calls to the correct PSAP. The required data layers, as defined by NENA, are:
- Road Centerline
- Site / Structure Address Points
- PSAP Boundary
- Emergency Service Boundaries – Police, Fire, EMS
- Provisioning Boundary
The NENA standards also include strongly recommended and recommended data layers. The Esri Canada team reviewed these required data layers and compared them to the NENA GIS data model, revealing the differences between the UCLG data and the NENA GIS data model requirements.
We also reviewed the practices UCLG employs to manage and maintain this data, generating a score and recommendations to meet the delivery format needed for NG9-1-1. Esri Canada also completed a visual scan using imagery to assess the quality of the data. Data was examined to answer the following questions:
- Are there gaps in the coverage?
- Are private roads collected?
- Are attributes missing?
- Do the road networks snap together?
- Are there issues with data consistency?
“Having the NG9-1-1 presentations really helped other internal stakeholders understand why this is such an important priority for us,” said Karen Fraser, UCLG Geomatics Manager. “We had several new leaders start just prior to completing the Readiness Assessment and this was a great education for them. Since a lot of this work that we do is on the backend, its importance is not always highlighted enough to the wider organization. This was also a catalyst for us to engage with our local municipalities and make them aware of the changes coming as part of NG9-1-1.”
There were also a few unique challenges faced by UCLG. For one, amalgamation in the late 1990’s resulted in many name changes and duplications. This can cause confusion and the process for cleaning these up varies by municipality. Some municipalities have completed the needed updates while others are still working on them. The currency of data also varied by municipality as they all had different processes and timelines for reporting address changes.
As an NG9-1-1 Business Analyst at Esri Canada, I can say that “Leeds and Grenville had some of the most thorough documentation of all the organizations that we have done readiness assessments for. We were impressed with their framework around 9-1-1 associated data, agreements, by-laws and responsibilities.”
The first step for UCLG was to understand the NG9-1-1 NENA GIS data standards and where processes may need to improve. In completing the NG9-1-1 readiness assessment, UCLG can begin to assess the differences between their data and the NENA GIS standards and start to prepare a roadmap for fixing them prior to the retirement of legacy 9-1-1 systems in 2025.