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Hillsborough County 911 uses new mapping software

BY AJA WHITAKER

STAFF WRITTER

 

More than 56 million people a year use a cell phone to call 911, and callers in Hillsborough County now can benefit from technology designed to make the process more efficient.

 

The county Sheriff’s Office recently spent $30,000 on mapping software and a multi-user Geographic Information System, or GIS, based application from a local company to construct a countywide database of addresses that will allow emergency personnel to more accurately pinpoint locations.

 

The software is geared toward public safety and adheres to U.S. Postal Service Addressing Standards.  The county 9-1-1 Administration’s Streets and Addresses Unit can convert it to local 911 standards.

 

“This was customized to our particular needs, and there are a lot of data quality controls built into the software which eliminate some errors people make during data entry such as misspelling street types and names,” said Ira Pyles, operations manager of the unit.  “In the 911 realm it makes a big difference.”

 

International Computer Works, Inc. designed GeoPointsSQL in conjunction with MapInfo Professional software and Microsoft’s SQL Server to allow map technicians to create a file of points and assign unique addresses to ensure no location will be duplicated.

 

“They wanted the ability to build a discreet address database,” said ICW CEO Ken Tozier.  “We looked at the problem, and we thought it would be a great way to improve the technology and productivity by building the database and minimizing the potential for data entry error.”

                                                                                      KATHLEEN CABBLE

 

The Hillsborough County 9-1-1 administration and sheriff’s office are using mapping technology to enable them to respond quicker and more efficiently to 911 calls.  Jennifer Grine, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office geographic information system/mapping tech 1, cleans up address points.

 

The county also will use this service to handle the second phase of the Federal Communications Commission’s wireless carrier requirements.  By a Dec. 31, 2005, deadline, the FCC calls for wireless carriers to transmit longitude, latitude and height dimensions for callers dialing 911 to determine a person’s location within 50-100 meters.

 

“When that X,Y coordinate comes in, their software will be able to find the closest point and provide that information to the call taker or dispatcher who will be able to communicate that to the officers,” Tozier said.  “Ultimately this technology will be rolled out across Hillsborough County to other responders like fire and ambulance.”

 

Phase I requirements called for automatic number identification that included the physical address for a cell site from which a particular call is operating.

 

Florida has set up a fund administered by the state Wireless911 Board that adds 50 cents to every wireless bill to help counties and carriers meet the requirements.  The fund dispersed more than $15.5 million through 2000.

 

“There are a lot of opportunities and a lot of companies looking to get in on this,” said James Baldinger, a Carlton Fields PA shareholder who represents high-tech companies and telecommunications providers.  “There is a lot of money in play.”

 

Meanwhile, the Hillsborough County database is still being constructed and 190,000 points have already been entered.  The database is scheduled for completion this summer and will grow to 400,000-500,000 points by the 2005 FCC deadline.

 

The GeoPointsSQL application and MapInfo products also are helping the Streets and Addressing Unit move away from using approximately 800 paper maps to pinpoint addresses for the county’s more that 1,000 square miles.

 

“Our accuracy for assigning addresses is improving greatly,” said Kevin Howe, senior manager of the unit.  “When we loaded the information we started finding addresses out of sequence never uncovered by customers or the post office.”

 

The sheriff’s department eventually will use the database for a new Computer Aided Dispatch System.  The City of Tampa may not use the same software but will maintain the same type of data to compile accurate street information.

 

Hillsborough County helped develop the product for its specifications and is the first client to use GeoPointsSQL.  ICW’s client list includes the St. Petersburg Police Department and Manatee and Walton counties.

 

Cost for the system can range from $15,000 to $75,000 based on the number of users.

 

awhitaker@bizjournals.com | 813.342.2463