Introduction to Jurisdictional Boundary Files

by Hfbtech

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Jurisdiction View is a free feature in RapidSOS Portal that uses GIS data and mapping to provide Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) unprecedented situational awareness of incoming 911 calls in their jurisdiction. But what is GIS and how does it work?

What is GIS?

You may have heard the acronym GIS before, but what is it? GIS stands for “Geographic Information System” and is rooted in the science of geography. Specifically, GIS involves the collection, analysis, and organization of geographical data. GIS data is used by corporations, governments, and NGOs to support decision making, strategic planning, resource management, and logistics.GIS is also used for situational awareness and tactical response.

If you work for a government agency, it is likely that you have applications relying on GIS data. Nearly every government department relies upon GIS maps, but none more so than public safety agencies. In public safety it is vitally important that a PSAP’s GIS map is up to date and highly accurate, because lives depend upon it. Having the precise GIS map of an agency’s jurisdiction not only ensures that all 911 calls get routed to the correct agency, it also ensures that an agency’s field personnel can respond quickly, safely, and effectively to emergencies within their area.

Figure 1: Boundary file showing beats

Types of Boundary Files

PSAPs’ GIS maps are typically constructed of map layers that can be toggled on and off. These layers contain boundary files that come in three aspects – point, line, and polygon. Point boundary files convey the location of a unique spot of interest on your map, like common places, hydrants, and street cameras. Lines are used for street centerlines and responder routing, transit routes, waterways, and etc. Polygons are intended to show an area, such as a police beat, fire district, building footprints, and so on.

Figure 2: Boundary box

RapidSOS defines each PSAP’s jurisdictional boundary with boundary files, in order to determine the area for which they are permitted to receive data from the RapidSOS emergency response data platform. For every PSAP, we start out with a basic boundary box. Agencies can query call data from anywhere within the box which typically exceeds the PSAP’s actual boundary by approximately ten miles.

Figure 3: Basic polygon boundary file

Within the basic boundary box, RapidSOS overlay the precise boundary file for the agency. This use of tandem boundaries allows us to give you the maximum allowable data with great precision.

Figure 4: Tandem overlay

The need for RapidSOS to have and use your PSAP’s accurate jurisdictional boundary file with your RapidSOS Portal or Integration cannot be overstated. With the boundary defined, RapidSOS’ data partners  can deliver 911 caller location information and supplemental data to Primary PSAPs via the RapidSOS emergency response data platform. With Jurisdiction View, incoming 911 calls from their jurisdiction automatically appear on an agencies’ screens. See Figure 5 for an example of how a cluster of different 911 calls appears on a Jurisdiction View boundary file enabled map.

Figure 5: Call cluster in Jurisdiction View

The possibilities for future features surrounding additional data and utilization are endless. With accurate jurisdictional boundary files, agencies are able to leverage life-saving data that will transform agency workflows, improve response times, and deliver better outcomes.

Submitting Your Jurisdictional Boundary File

Admins can submit their PSAP’s Jurisdictional Boundary Files to RapidSOS via the Admin tab of RapidSOS Portal.

In 911 services, accuracy is needed in all aspects of response, starting at the intake level. When submitting a jurisdictional boundary file to RapidSOS, it is critical that the boundary is an accurate and true representation of the PSAP’s current jurisdictional boundary. Once RapidSOS receives your jurisdictional boundary file, it will go through a series of quality assurance checks. Agency admins and RapidSOS can provide feedback, comments, and also verify the boundary file within RapidSOS Portal.

When a PSAP submits their jurisdictional boundary file, it must be in either geojson, kml, or boundary file format. These are the only file formats RapidSOS will process. Any other file format that is received will not be accepted, and RapidSOS will reach out to the agency admin to request a different valid file format.

RapidSOS only requires the polygon showing your jurisdictional boundary, outlining your primary response area. Any layer data that holds other features unique to your jurisdiction, such as beats or districts, are not needed for RapidSOS systems and will be discarded.

Accessing your PSAP’s jurisdictional boundary file is usually an easy task. If your PSAP has a dedicated GIS professional, they should have the file on hand. If not, don’t worry – that same data may be kept on file elsewhere in your jurisdiction, such as another governing office that may have a GIS professional. When in doubt, start by checking with your IT or planning departments.

Step-by-step instructions on uploading your jurisdictional boundary file can be found in the RapidSOS Portal Training Center. Simply log in to RapidSOS Portal and click on the Training tab. If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact Support via RapidSOS Portal or reach out to your Customer Success Manager.

To learn more about this process and how to get started with Jurisdiction View, register for our free webinar on July 14th, 2020.