GIS Data Considerations for Notification

BY: Rick Wimberly | October 4, 2009

For ENS managers, a great deal of attention is often placed on the technology surrounding the systems themselves. While technical details such as message capacities, infrastructure requirements and security are important, mass notification systems will still be ineffective if the underlying data is poor or missing.

A white paper released recently by GIS data company InfoCode provides great insight into the various considerations regarding GIS data as it relates to emergency notification.

The first consideration discussed is is the telephone data source (E911 versus commercial data). While most would agree E911 data--utilized by the 9-1-1 center--is most accurate, factors such as high costs, slow carrier response and use restrictions might keep agencies from utilizing this source. Third-party "white pages" sources also have their benefits (e.g. availability, business/NAICS data) and drawbacks (e.g. no unlisted numbers).

The second consideration discussed is the map data source. Locally managed GIS map data certainly has its advantages, but not every agency has the staff or political relationships to pull this off. Commercial map data sources are often a good alternative. Agencies should weigh costs, degree of accuracy and frequency of updates in determining the best map data approach.

Finally, the third consideration discussed is a web-based portal for citizens. This is a growing problem since large segments of the population are turning to cell phones as their primary means of contact (no land lines). The paper highlights several best practices for developing a web portal such as building flexibility to allow for personal notification preferences, and clearly outlining privacy policies.

GIS data management is an ongoing challenge for ENS managers. How has your agency dealt with the issue? What best practice ideas do you have? We'd love to hear your feedback.

Best regards,



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