911 compiles more address data

By The West Virginia Record | Aug 29, 2007

CHARLESTON -- Emergency 911 organizations across the state are correcting and updating road addresses more efficiently now with a new GIS data collection software program, developed by Thrasher Engineering.

More detailed structure descriptions, updated road address ranges and the correct number of apartment units enable police departments, fire departments and medical responders to find sites quicker in emergency situations.

"As new home developments crop up, or street addresses change, Emergency 911 need to know in order to ensure they can reach those individuals in case of emergency," said Thasher Engineering GIS Manager Eric Meadows, who developed the software. "It can also pinpoint homes in the community with special-needs individuals, residents who use oxygen tanks and if a special type of equipment, such as a larger ladder, is needed to combat a fire at the location."

Using a GPS unit and a laptop computer, Emergency 911 data collectors can drive through neighborhoods and view their location in real time, allowing them to accurately identify property parcels and verify site information. Data collectors can add photos, add comments, such as the home is a two story red brick home with blue front door, and cross reference other databases, including county assessors and power companies, for address matches.

"If there is an emergency at the address, the Emergency 911 officer can walk emergency personnel to the address with the use of the data collection system," Meadows said. "Correct verification can help police officers respond to situations sooner, medical responders get individuals to the hospital quicker and firefighters take action more rapidly."

Meadows developed the software in response to the difficulties Kanawha County's Emergency Management System faced while updating mapping systems.

"I knew there had to be an easier way," he said. "With my background in computer programming, I'm always looking for a more efficient method to calculate data."

At Thrasher Engineering, Meadows built the GIS software program for address maintenance. Kanawha County Metro 911, Cabell County 911, Wirt County 911, Wetzel County 911 and Dunbar Fire Department are already using the system, which is customized for each county's specific needs.

For instance, Kanawha County flags addresses with oxygen tanks and Dunbar Fire Department identifies what equipment is needed for specific buildings, such as schools, offices and larger stores.

"In developing the software, we kept it user-friendly so technicians with only a small amount of computer experience could easily collect data," said Meadows.

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