Sandi Stroud, associate vice president, Public Safety GIS DATAMARK, spoke with GISCafe Voice about DATAMARK, the public safety GIS division of Michael Baker International, and the recent launch of DATAMARK DATAMARK VEP (Validate-Edit-Provision), its new software-as-a-service GIS solution that validates, edits and provisions GIS data. To solve incomplete or poor-quality GIS data challenges, DATAMARK developed DATAMARK VEP to provide highest levels of public safety GIS data completeness and accuracy in the nation’s nearly 5,000 public safety answering points. The new solution is for both current 9-1-1 systems and the transition to next generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) systems and is augmented with GIS technical services and an expanded DATAMARK team that includes public safety and GIS professionals. NG9-1-1 is an initiative to update the 9-1-1 service infrastructure in the U.S. and Canada to improve public emergency response in a mobile society.
“This year Michael Baker formalized the public safety GIS division, grown into our own line of purposeful business within the company. And our staff has grown. But under DATAMARK we really are a suite of solutions and services. We have really built our team over the last six months to not just address GIS professionals but a lot of folks who have spent their entire careers in public safety and 9-1-1. And part of the reason for that is that we understand there’s a bit of translation that has to happen, depending upon whether we are working with a public safety or GIS client. Our staff is really involved in NG9-1-1 standards and participation in groups. Several of my staff including myself have helped author NG9-1-1 workshops for URISA. We launched that about three years ago at the GIS Pro conference in Washington, taught the workshop about twelve times since, and in fact we’re teaching the workshop at the Esri conference this year, so it’ll be free to conference goers.
We’re very focused on being able to be the GIS experts for NG9-1-1. In addition, we do offer comprehensive technical services, and then we also have solutions that are SaaS solutions. The approach we’ve taken is how can we take a product that helps a GIS stakeholder or data provider support the next gen 9-1-1 requirements, which is maybe a heavier lift than the normal business process they currently support. In addition to the solutions, we’ve also developed a service deliverable that we call a DATAMARK VEP. It allows us to help a 9-1-1 jurisdiction take a step back and look at a solution and really assess what it is they need to address in order to address their public safety or 9-1-1 solution.
What is the difference between traditional 9-1-1 and NG9-1-1?
The current 9-1-1 system – the process of getting the 9-1-1 caller to the right 9-1-1 center. You’ve dialed the 9-1-1 center and are waiting to talk to the dispatcher who sends you help. There is the process of identifying which center based on where you’re at. There is tabular location data that is used to take the location and do a database lookup, it’s not a geocoding exercise. Based on an attribute in that file, it determines where to send your call. In the 9-1-1 center you have your CAD dispatch center, you have a call taking system, and vehicle routing system. All these can use GIS, but we’ve found it’s very inconsistently applied. Some do not use GIS in those systems, they maintain a separate spatial file within those systems. There are a lot of silos that currently exist between how GIS is used in the 9-1-1 center and the tabular data that is currently being used to decide what center a call goes to.