STATE COLLEGE, Pa. Mission Critical Partners was awarded a three-year contract to support the state of Maryland’s effort to aggregate, validate, and disseminate geographic information system (GIS) data in the state’s multi-emergency services IP network (ESInet) environment. MCP will ensure the GIS data aligns with industry standards and best practices and is seamless across Maryland’s next-generation 911 (NG911) environment. 

The effort is being led by the Maryland 911 Board and the Maryland Geographic Information Office (GIO), which are working with the 24 emergency communications centers (ECCs) that exist across the state. MCP’s contract award continues an engagement that began four years ago.

“MCP has a long and fruitful relationship with Maryland’s 911 community, and we’re gratified that the state, once again, has chosen our firm to support its efforts to bring this vital service to its citizens,” said Darrin Reilly, president and CEO. 

NG911 systems represent a significant improvement over legacy 911 systems. Broadband-enabled NG911 systems enable the transport of extremely large data files, e.g., video, and tremendous volumes of data, both of which would choke legacy narrowband 911 systems. The enhanced data transport capabilities of NG911 systems result in dramatically enhanced situational awareness that enables emergency responders to perform their roles more effectively and keeps them safer.

In addition, NG911 systems are much more effective in locating emergency callers because they rely on dynamic geospatial routing that is driven by GIS-generated data. However, before this data can be used in the NG911 environment, it first must be improved so that it matches the databases used by legacy 911 systems to locate emergency callers at a minimum rate of 98%. Inaccurate data can delay the dispatch and arrival of appropriate response personnel and apparatus to an emergency incident, placing people and property at greater risk.

The NG911 environment is unique in Maryland in that each of the state’s ECCs has its own ESInet. Such networks are used to transport emergency calls and associated data to NG911-compliant ECCs. GIS-generated data is a component of next-generation core services, or NGCS, which represent the functional elements that enable ECCs to handle emergency calls and dispatch response in the NG911 environment.

Because each ECC has its own ESInet and unique GIS capabilities, the Board and GIO decided it was necessary for them to coordinate with the two ESInet/NGCS service providers that exist in the state — AT&T and Motorola — concerning the effort to prepare GIS data for the NG911 environment. They also will coordinate with local GIS departments and ECC leadership. The goal is continual progress, because it takes about 18 months to prepare public-safety GIS data for use in the NG911 environment.  

As important as the 98% match rate between the NG911 and legacy 911 databases is, the need to ensure that no overlaps or gaps exist between adjacent jurisdictions is equally important. If an emergency call is placed in an overlap or gap area, the conflicting or absence of data associated with that call will result in the call being default-routed by the NG911 system. When that happens, it is likely that the answering ECC will not be the correct ECC, requiring that the call be transferred, a process that usually takes seconds but can take minutes — an enormous amount of time when lives are on the line.

Data errors are another significant problem. Over the years, MCP has helped clients identify and correct the thousands of errors that exist in every GIS database. These errors usually are fairly simple. For example, a street name might be misspelled, a roadway might be designated as a “lane” when it really is an “avenue,” or the abbreviation “AV” was used when it should have been “Ave.” In such cases, every affected address will show as an error, and the databases won’t match. Consequently, all errors must be found and corrected regardless of their complexity or severity — a process that takes a lot of time, effort, and expertise.

MCP will provide subject-matter expertise continually to enable the board and GIO to hold the legacy and NG911 service providers accountable, ensure that address changes are input into each ECC’s GIS in a timely manner, eliminate all overlaps and gaps, and identify and correct all data errors.

“The last four years working with MCP’s subject-matter experts give us complete confidence in their ability to support the effort to safeguard Maryland’s ESInet-rich environment and ensure that every NG911 system in the state will perform optimally for our citizens in their time of greatest need,” said GIO Director Julia Fischer.