MCP Insights

Geographic Information Systems Are Great Tools for Public Safety, But Usually Need Refinement

Posted on September 13, 2022 by Robert Horne

Geographic information systems (GIS) play a vital role in the Next Generation 911 (NG911) environment. Harnessing the location and advanced querying capabilities of GIS enables more accurate emergency call routing by leveraging geospatial data generated by various wireless devices capable of dialing 911, e.g., cellular phones and in-vehicle automatic crash-detection systems. However, this migration to geospatial call-routing necessitates the creation of highly accurate and fully attributed GIS data.

MCP addresses the current state of public-safety GIS and the data they generate in its recently published Model for Advancing Public Safety® (MAPS®) Analysis and Insights 2022 Report. MAPS® is a proprietary assessment methodology developed by MCP that is based on industry standards and best practices in addition to the collective expertise of the firm’s subject-matter experts. The report is developed from hundreds of assessments of client technologies and operations using the methodology. It contains chapters on land mobile radio, Next Generation 911 readiness, ECC operations, staffing, security and data integration, and GIS.

The following factors are explored in the GIS chapter:

  • GIS data readiness
  • Production Environment
  • Regional Coordination
  • Training
  • Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD)
  • General Information Technology (IT)
  • Addressing
  • Documentation

This chapter identifies common issues concerning GIS that are being experienced across the public-safety sector, including:

  • GIS data generally exists, but it does not align with the schemas and standards identified by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA).
  • Data isn’t updated regularly; in some cases, the data is upgraded to match ALI and MSAG data but isn’t touched for several months, if at all.
  • GIS professionals are spread too thin; rarely are GIS staff members dedicated to the 911 environment.
  • Overlaps and gaps result along boundaries that negatively affect emergency response.
  • GIS staff members are not instructed adequately regarding NG911’s unique aspects, particularly regarding geospatial call routing.
  • Computers used by GIS staff members do not have the processing power needed for video rendering, three-dimensional analytics, and similar applications.
  • Address points generally exist and align well with road centerlines, except in rural areas; however, even where well-aligned address points exist, coordination between the 911 center and addressing authority often is lacking, which delays updates, for example, when a new housing development comes online.
  • Documentation often is thought of as “nice to do” rather than “must do.”
    • Even when documentation is a priority, GIS professionals typically hate it because it is time consuming and tedious — because they don’t like doing it, they often don’t.
    • As a result, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and workflows are not memorialized, which creates problems when personnel turnover or a crisis occurs.

This chapter contains many useful insights, including solutions for resolving these challenges if you’re interested in purchasing a copy of the report, email

Robert Horne is MCP’s technology domain lead. Email him at

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