When someone in distress calls 911, the dispatcher and first responder must know where the caller is and how to reach them. The problem is, these questions can be far from clear. Cell phones don’t always convey an accurate location and street addresses don’t always match the map.
“A fire department deputy chief told me they regularly get calls from fire crews they send into a neighborhood where all the streets at one intersection have the same name,” said Peter Schoenfield, GIS analyst, Lake County, Illinois. “The dispatcher might say ‘Turn left on Lake Shore Drive,’ but they’re all Lake Shore Drive.”
That scenario is typical of how addresses can become barriers to accurate wayfinding. In the US, local authorities maintain addresses and update shared maps using a geographic information system (GIS). Data is then shared with 911 call centers, known as public-safety answering points (PSAPs).
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