Is Your Data NG9-1-1 Ready?

With change comes new opportunities and new challenges. One area of Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) where this is certainly true is in the way a caller's location information is managed. Today, 9-1-1 uses tabular routing to match the caller's phone number with the information in the Master Street Address Guide (MSAG) so that the correct Automatic Location Information (ALI) is displayed on the call taker's screen.

With NG9-1-1, which is based on the NENA i3 standard, specific elements of how call routing and record validation happen today will change. For starters, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data will be used instead of a tabular MSAG to validate and ultimately route calls. NG9-1-1 uses GIS data because it offers more capability than existing MSAG and can be maintained at the source of addressing information.

But, with the opportunity for more capability inside the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) comes new challenges.

As more and more PSAPs adopt NextGen technology, the realization of the importance of GIS is moving to front and center. Recently, we caught up with Cassidian Communications' own Chuck Ronshagen, our senior solutions engineer for GIS, to get an update of just what impact GIS will have on PSAPs and what PSAPs and their GIS representatives need to be thinking about today to be ready for tomorrow.

What are the top two or three big changes GIS will bring that PSAPs needs to begin thinking about now?

Today, the responsibility for the location accuracy of the 9-1-1 ALI data lies with the local 9-1-1 database administrator by maintaining the records in the MSAG based upon the ALI service provider's standards.

In NG9-1-1, GIS replaces the MSAG in the form of a Location Validation Function (LVF) and Emergency Call Routing Function (ECRF). The ALI database is replaced by the LIS (Location Information Server) and the LIS record has to be validated against the LVF, as the ALI was against the MSAG. The LIS will be maintained (potentially contracted) by the service provider and the LVF/ECRF will be maintained by public safety.

In addition to replacing the ALI database with the LIS, the other big change is that the responsibility for the accuracy of the GIS data now lies not only with the 9-1-1 database administrator, but also with the GIS administrator. So you are basically introducing another party into the mix. The GIS administrator now has the responsibility to not only maintain the addressing information, but also the service area boundaries associated with the Emergency Service Zones. Bottom line is that in the NG9-1-1 world, communication is paramount and the process for quality assurance needs to be crystal clear and be ongoing.

What advice would you give PSAPs regarding the steps they can begin to take today to ensure a good communication process is in place?

A good first step before moving to NG9-1-1 is to make sure the 9-1-1 and GIS administrators have a process and policy in place to maintain and validate the GIS data. As I said before, communication is paramount.

The second thing they can do is begin to make sure the existing data is up-to-date. Consider these questions: Is your current map data complete and current? Does it follow NENA standards? Is it synchronized with the MSAG and the ALI? Do you have a maintenance plan? Yes or no, now is the time to initiate a legacy data clean-up so that when you are ready for NG9-1-1, it won't be overwhelming.

Another reason to make sure the data is accurate today is because NENA has put in a recommended standard that the GIS data must match the MSAG data at a 98% rate before going to NextGen. One big issue is that the current MSAG may be separate from reality based on the standards that were used to maintain the database. An example is that in some areas the "ST" street type is not used in the MSAG. The service provider's have much work to perform to get their side of the databases current with the correct naming conventions used by the community. It doesn't make sense to match 98% of an incorrect database.

This comes back to identifying the process now for how the GIS and 9-1-1 database administrators will work together to ensure the accuracy of the data. Education will need to happen so that the GIS administrators understand the needs of public safety and vice-versa.

What is the timing for the transition from the MSAG to the LVF/ECRF?

This won't happen overnight. In fact, a very small percentage of the PSAPs in the U.S. are ready for the implementation of NG9-1-1 based on their GIS. This is something that will take time. Most current NG9-1-1 implementations are starting with IP routing of calls and not incorporating the GIS in the form of the ECRF, but expect to see geospatial routing soon. It is imperative that focus is given to coordinating all participants in the synchronization and correction of the MSAG and GIS so that when it is time to implement NG9-1-1 based on NENA's i3 standard you are ready.

Want to learn more on this important topic or discuss the implementation of GIS data in your PSAP? Just email Chuck directly at Chuck.Ronshagen@CassidianCommunications.com.