May 31, 2006 -- Redlands, California—The Maui Police Department (MPD) now uses geographic information system (GIS) technology from ESRI for a groundbreaking E911 dispatch system that allows dispatchers to track the locations of people using a wireless phone to call in an emergency. The system can pinpoint and digitally map an emergency call location within seconds, allowing dispatchers to rapidly respond to emergencies no matter the location, whether on land or sea or in remote hiking or camping areas. The system is the first to go online for the state of Hawaii.
"The department needed to meet the federal mandate to provide accurate locations for 911 calls from cell phones," says Tommy Takeshita, dispatch supervisor, Maui Police Department. "We already had in place an accurate system for telephone calls from land-line locations. Cellular phones presented a unique challenge because they are wireless and mobile and not tied to a specific location or address. We needed to be able to locate and plot calls from these devices dynamically based on an x,y coordinate. The only way to do this is with GIS."
In response to the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999, MPD initiated a pilot project in cooperation with Maui County GIS staff to provide a "proof of concept" prototype with location capabilities for wireless calls. This prototype was demonstrated in Hawaii and at several conferences stateside (including the ESRI User Conference in San Diego, California), and the application and datasets were refined based on the input from these demos. By moving forward with the technical development of the system while the formal enabling legislation and fee structure were adopted, MPD was able to achieve full deployment of the wireless E911 system less than a year after the empanelment of the State Wireless Enhanced 911 Board. The system meets Federal Communications Commission Phase I and Phase II requirements for locating wireless calls within 300 meters. Today, the MPD system can locate calls within 3 to 250 feet. Approximately 9,000 emergency 911 calls are made monthly in Maui County. Of these, roughly 50 percent are made from wireless telephones. There are 3,142 counties in the United States, but less than 400 have the capabilities Maui County possesses today.
"We are saving lives and making our community safer for our residents and visitors," says Bill Medeiros, GIS manager, Maui County, Hawaii. "We are not a large county, yet we were able to do the initial prototype in-house and at very little cost to the taxpayers. Doing the prototype in-house also gave us the knowledge to better review the various applications on the market. The prototype set the bar in terms of minimum acceptable standards, and MPD refused to use any system that did not meet or exceed that standard."
In addition to the E911 system, GIS is used for a number of crime analysis and preplanning activities. The department can perform various crime mapping applications including classifying crimes by geographical area, date, and time; performing visual incident analysis; and using GIS for event coordination and modeling and tactical and strategic planning.
The department deploys ArcGIS 9 software including ArcView and ArcInfo software. Positron Public Safety System’s PowerMap application provides automatic display and management of calls, incidents, responses, and resources. Street data is maintained by MPD, with the county supplying parcel and other spatial data layers. MPD also uses spatial data layers, such as police beats, fire engine company districts, ambulance service areas, lifeguard areas, and more, for response and analysis capabilities.
The MPD GIS is a result of government collaboration and leveraging of existing resources. It takes advantage of existing county GIS resources such as county parcel data. Seven Maui County departments use GIS data and applications. In addition, the county GIS division provides GIS services and products (mapping and analysis) to another six departments or offices within the county. The resulting cross-coordination and data sharing results in more effective government operations and cost savings.