GIS is the integration of geographic data and geographically referenced information for the purposes of monitoring, capturing and communicating information in an organized manner. For dispatch, GIS can integrate map data and call data on the same screen, allowing a visual representation of an area of responsibility. When combined with real-time GPS data of deployed units, governmental agencies can monitor the efficiency and make time-critical decisions.
GIS is not limited to mapping capabilities. Because the data is integrated, one can use the intelligence to make deployment models, essential for homeland security planning, and integrated map/database models, useful for integrating planning structures like traffic engineering.
GIS information is created in layers of data. For example, a crime-mapping model for a certain investigation overlaying train and bus stations can be viewed with an overlay of government buildings. Some information can be collected for a certain project; other information could be gleaned from existing data. The integration of GIS can only be limited by human imagination. Thus, critical incidents within a city area could be overlaid with a map of the subterranean tunnels and manhole cover locations.
GPS can be used for resource management during critical incidents. Using a data-logging GPS tool, the agency can track the location of vehicles or personnel, depending on their policy. Data logging using key chain-sized units, like the Super Trackstick from Trackstick, can provide an agency with integrated mapping data such as speed, location, direction and time, and can be downloaded from the device or seamlessly placed on a Google Earth screen.
GPS data logging generally does not provide a real-time location of the officer, instead providing data at time intervals. The advantage is the available data can be applied toward fleet management and beat structuring. Monitoring location information of a unit can be especially liability friendly to the officer and agency.
Issuing data-logging instruments to officers can drastically increase an agency's capability for critical incident documentation. For example, search and rescue teams can be issued a Trackstick per team. When it is time for resupply/debriefing, teams can swap their Tracksticks out. Their data logging can immediately and systematically answer post-deployment questions.
Real-time location also is essential for patrol use. An aviation or maritime incident may require geolocation using GPS. Rural patrol should integrate GPS, whether over the radio using verbal coordinates, AVL (Automatic Vehicle Location) or through some other automated system.
The patrol officer can benefit from many aspects of GPS location. First, mapping city and county address parcels is only as reliable as its data input. In many municipalities, city employees routinely report updates to the parcel address system. For example, if a single-family home becomes a duplex, some parcel systems might report this as a "1/2" to the original address. A GPS address that distinguishes the location of both entrances would resolve this problem. If a large business composed of several buildings relocates their main office or security office, that location may not be in the call history.
Officers whose jurisdiction can't be broken into parcels especially need GPS. These include railroad enforcement, harbor patrol and military installations.
While agencies will probably purchase GPS locators for vehicles and data-logging products, individual officers will use personal GPS products. The technology is advanced enough to put GPS capabilities into a wristwatch. For the urban officer to take up a shooting position on another building, the wrist GPS is the way to go.
Technology has raised the ante for officers needing geolocation. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) has become more popular. With enhanced 911 (E-911), the location of the caller is automatically routed to dispatch as soon as the call is made. For most systems, this is limited to landline 911 calls. Because VoIP calls are digital, they cannot go directly to the dispatch center. In fact, some VoIP signals are separated and reconstructed seamlessly to the receiving caller. VoIP calls go to a priority call center that routes them in an emergency, which is commercially maintained. A dispatch center that is E-911 capable is a governmental entity.