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Identifying the Shortest Route to the Emergency in Progress

Gaston County, North Carolina, Cuts 9-1-1 Response Time with GIS

Gaston County Public Safety, located in North Carolina, provides critical emergency services to a population of approximately 200,000 persons, covering a geographic area of police car350 square miles. A multiagency, multijurisdiction, consolidated telecommunications center serves the County by responding to more than 750,000 annual calls for service (including non-9-1-1 calls and multiple calls during major emergencies), resulting in more than 350,000 dispatched calls. The consolidated emergency dispatch center serves six police departments, 30 fire departments, eight rescue squads, and the County-wide paramedic service.

Above right: This Gaston County Police Patrol vehicle is equipped with advanced tactical mapping mobile.

In 1997, Gaston County Public Safety initiated a procurement process for the acquisition of a coordinate-based computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system. Early on in the procurement process it was determined that a major priority was the development of an accurate and reliable GIS that would operate seamlessly with the CAD system.

The County recognized that an effective GIS would streamline the dispatch center and improve both response times and officer safety. CAD and GIS working together would need to display the location of the caller, track the movement of dispatched units, provide an associated in-vehicle map, and most importantly, provide a tool to meet their needs for rapid and accurate mapping for crime analysis. GIS tools would be utilized to display crime analysis collected from the CAD system and the police records system to aid in the investigation and resolution of crimes.

Printrak, Inc., a Motorola company and an Esri Business Partner, was selected as the vendor to provide the new public safety system. The system comprises an array of functionality--including advanced tactical mapping (ATM), ATM mobile, and automatic vehicle location (AVL)--that allows dispatchers to quickly and efficiently handle incident information, thus increasing officer safety and the potential for saving lives.

Left: A Gaston County map displayed on a dispatch console.

ATM and ATM Mobile were developed with MapObjects and NetEngine. MapObjects was the primary tool used, while NetEngine provided the intelligence to ATM and ATM Mobile to calculate the shortest path between two points on the map--an invaluable aid to the 9-1-1 dispatcher or police officer trying to respond to an emergency where every second counts. In Gaston County this technology is installed in police, fire, and emergency medical vehicles.

Central to Gaston County's solution is the coordinate-based CAD system linking all dispatch functions to Printrak's Esri-based mapping tools. When an emergency call is received at Gaston County's Consolidated 9-1-1 Center, the address of the caller is automatically validated against the County-wide geofile and the geographic location of the call is then displayed.

Gaston County has also deployed ATM in their patrol vehicles (ATM Mobile) where it automatically plots the location of the call for service. The geographic display of the incident location in conjunction with the display of the patrol vehicle's location, provided by GPS and AVL software, allows the responder to visualize their geographic location in relation to the incident. AVL plots the location of the unit and then uses the incident location to plot the closest recommended route allowing the officer to instantly see where they are and the best route to follow to the incident, with written turn-by-turn route recommendations.

"The combination of the information provided by ATM Mobile and AVL has decreased Gaston County's response time to calls for service," says Tom Riley, former deputy director of the Gaston County Police Department, who was responsible for the Telecommunication Division and 9-1-1 system. "These tools have provided us with a significantly improved capability to quickly and more effectively serve the citizens of Gaston County."

For more information, contact Tom Riley (e-mail:

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