Director of GIS Mapping Pam Dunham gives update on progress with Next Generation 911 Project
In an effort to keep the Butler Count Commissioners informed, Director of GIS Mapping Pam Dunham appeared to give an update on the progress with the Next Generation 911 Project during their meeting on Tuesday morning.
"For this most part, this whole process is a grade card for our collected data," explained Dunham. "There is really a lot of hard work going on right now because we elected to do the work in house and not apply for a grant."
Commissioner Peggy Palmer questioned the purpose of the change.
"So far we've been in our own little world of mapping on a county basis," said Dunham. "We have been doing OK so far, but dispatch does run across county boundaries. All of our maps and data currently end at the county boundaries. Right now, when we are sharing data with surrounding counties, several things just don't match up. We've been in the process of moving into the digital world."
With the movement toward a newer system, the county has begun moving to a more widely-accepted process for storing their data.
"The state has provided us with a template that we can load all of our data into so that the county can have the same template as everyone else," explained Dunham. "Other counties will also have the same information in their data."
"Who determines that set of information?" asked Palmer.
"The determination is an industry standard from the national level," added Director of Emergency Communications Chris Davis. "The 911 standards have not been completed yet, but they're being worked on. The way computers route 911 calls is fundamentally going to change with this whole project. Today, when you call 911, it goes through a phone company database. That whole process is being absorbed into a different method of making those decisions. It is all incorporated and embedded in GIS data. The state is looking at this from a state-wide GIS map. Everything is going to be funneled through this state-wide conglomeration of GIS data."
Although difficult, the movement to the new configuration will be beneficial for all area emergency responders.
"I personally am very excited about the new configuration," said Dunham. "We share data with the city of Andover, the city of Augusta, the city of El Dorado and Andover even shares data with Sedgwick County. Andover is using our data, but they do have their own public safety answering point (PSAP) and they're making their own plan. Augusta is using our plan and data."
Palmer again questioned the benefits of the change.
"I know the state is doing this and proposing it, but how does this help the citizens of Butler County?" asked Palmer.
"If we do not participate we will not be eligible for 911 grant funding," explained Davis.
"If we don't do this ourselves, the state will," added Dunham. "They'll come in and hand it to us. This is not something we can ignore. It will be done with or without our input. Our input is crucial. We're going to be in a position to have a very strong system in place and it will work with our day-to-day operations.
"But what benefit is it to the Kansas residents?" asked Palmer.
"In order for cell phones to be able to call 911 or to text 911 or send pictures and videos, this fundamental change in how 911 calls are sent to a 911 center has to take place," said Davis.
"So we're moving into the next generation of 911," added Commission Chair Mike Wheeler.
"You can essentially think of this project on a state-wide level as the infrastructure to allow for that," explained Davis. "We will have a way of sending that data. It doesn't exist yet, but this is all part of it."
"So you'll be able to tweet Chris in the future if you have an emergency," added Masterson.
"We have to have this completed and approved by Nov. 30," said Dunham. "We're knee deep. We've been doing a lot of cleanup with our data. Making sure everything is accurate. We started in May and we've had a few meetings and we're really starting to understand exactly what all this entails."
The commission moved on to focus on how soon the new system could be implemented.
"So when are we going to be able to receive text messages at dispatch?" asked Wheeler.
"Not within the next two to three years at the earliest," said Davis. "Probably a little further out than that."
"This has about a five-year plan attached to it because there's also learning how to maintain the data," said Dunham. "Those who used the vendor have to go back and train on how to maintain their data. Our office is completing the entire process in house, so we will not have to go to the training on how to maintain because we're learning it now."
Commissioner Ed Myers expressed concern on the regular changes in township roads' center lines moving and its affect on the mapping system.
"Township roads have the center lines that have the tendency to move a little bit back and forth depending on who is grading them," said Myers. "How will this affect your mapping?"
"Through the magic of the GIS department, we don't get complaints about that very much at all," answered Davis. "I don't really have as much of a problem with it as my peers do because we have a very good GIS mapping department."
"The new database does include some rules that are set in it already," added Dunham. "If we move a street that aligns with a boundary of the fire department, it'll tell us."
Work will continue on the system.
Kari Adams can be reached at email@example.com.