GIS Assessment Project
This project was undertaken to understand how geographic information systems (GIS) are functioning today in the 911 community and how best to implement a nationwide GIS data-sharing system. The findings from the four resulting reports will be used to help establish the Next Generation 911 (NG911) system that is fully interconnected and interoperable across the country.
This GIS effort undertook three objectives:
Identify current GIS status: Many technical issues exist in communities that have implemented NG911. Problems with developing, sharing and storing GIS data among 911 centers act as barriers to use NG911 efficiently and effectively. These barriers will be addressed to ease 911 centers’ transitions to NG911.
Assessment of necessary partner agencies, entities and issues: Matters of financial, administrative, operational and governance were evaluated to identify the budget, resources and organizations required to address challenges in current systems.
Metrics and strategies: The initiative developed strategies to address obstacles identified through the assessment phase. Success will be measured by metrics developed during the execution of the first two objectives.
Successful implementation of NG911 relies heavily on highly accurate, robust GIS data that is constantly maintained to NG911 standards and freely shared locally, regionally and nationally; currently, there is not a universal GIS-sharing system in place for 911 centers in the U.S. While some states have made the transition to NG911, many have not.
Once every 911 center has the capability to share local GIS data, a universal NG911 system can be implemented, and the GIS data will help inform evidence-based practices in telecommunication. Two 2019 reports from the National 911 Program, housed within the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of EMS—the National NG911 Roadmap and Strategic Plan for 911 Data and Information Sharing—highlighted the need to develop uniform standards and best practices for data-sharing.
What's Happening Now
The GIS stakeholders met in early February 2022 to discuss current challenges to sharing GIS data to meet the needs of NG911. These stakeholders represented subject matter experts from across the country: GIS solution providers, GIS industry associations and professionals from emergency communication centers (ECCs), also known as public safety answering points (PSAPs). The Program sponsored several nationwide information-gathering sessions to ascertain the challenges encountered by GIS data stewards and stakeholders, including tribal communities and a variety of jurisdiction types (state, regional and local), size and geographic location.
Between July 2022 and March 2023, the project stakeholders released the final four reports of the project:
The success of NG911 and accurate 911 caller location heavily relies on the success of GIS at the federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government level. Much assistance is needed to ensure the successful development and maintenance of the geospatial fabric, without gaps in coverage, across the country. This report—the result of several nationwide information-gathering sessions—summarizes the challenges to success at all levels of government and across a wide array of GIS stakeholders. Three common themes dominated the conversation: creating the right next-generation GIS team, acquiring and maintaining GIS data and funding.
The implementation of next-generation technologies for 911 requires a collaborative approach to the creation and maintenance of the GIS data. To this end, the greatest risk to the successful creation of GIS data for NG911 is not identifying all stakeholders early in the migration planning and not engaging them repeatedly throughout the implementation process. The stakeholders assembled for participation in this research effort identified areas of concern to building a GIS team and keeping them connected to the project:
The foundational message of why GIS is a key component to the NG911 migration is not being conveyed and understood by the necessary decision-makers
An operational blueprint for creating and maintaining GIS for NG911 is needed by local units of government to understand how to begin the process
Implementing GIS data for NG911 requires sharing locally, regionally and nationally, but not all GIS data stewards are willing or legally able to share GIS data
The emergency communications ecosystem dramatically expands with the migration to NG911, to include multiple agencies within federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial and regional governments and the private sector. Seeking out and building strategic relationships will be critical to success. Although GIS programs have become commonplace, the development and maintenance of GIS data for NG911 demand more exact standards and a working knowledge of the emergency communications ecosystem. This report identifies the most common gaps in creating and maintaining GIS data to NG911 standards and offers strategic partnership ideas with organizations that offer solutions to overcome these gaps.
The first three reports in the series sought to identify gaps to the successful integration of GIS into NG911 systems across the country. The final report in the series addresses strategies for closing these gaps through the coordinated effort of all stakeholders. The report describes five key strategic goals—human capital; nationwide, standardized location data; funding next-generation GIS programs, Tribal collaboration; education and outreach—and benchmarks for each.
We encourage the stakeholder community to review the reports and work to implement strategies.