Wisconsin Geospatial News

Wireless 911 would leverage existing data

911 what is your emergency?

References to the WI Land Information Program (WLIP) and Land Information Board (WLIB) have recently appeared in proposed legislation not directly related to either, and to quote a well-known line, "It’s a good thing."

An ever increasing number of Americans rely on wireless phones as their primary means of telephone communication. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks we became so much more aware of the critical importance of wireless phones for both public and personal safety. Knowing the location of a wireless call in an emergency can be critically important for fast response. Unfortunately, at the present time across most of Wisconsin, the location of a wireless 911 caller cannot be determined by the facility receiving the call.

Legislation in the works

Assembly Bill 61, currently in the legislature, is intended to change this situation through grants to wireless-service providers and to local operators of public answering points, to upgrade their systems. The legislation as currently written notably recognizes land information as a necessary component of a wireless 911 response system.

AB 61 specifies that the grants be administered by the Public Service Commission (PSC), and that there be only one grant per county for a public safety answering point (PSAP). The original version of AB 61 had no mention of land information. However, in late May the Senate’s Committee on Transportation and Information Infrastructure adopted an amendment identifying geographic data as an important system response component for determining the location of emergency calls. The committee then approved the amended bill.

The amendment specifically identifies land information as a PSAP-grant-eligible component. The amendment further specifies that the PSC may approve funding for land information activities only if the data collection conforms to WLIP standards, is consistent with a county’s existing land records plan, and does not duplicate already existing information.

Additional resources directed to WLIB

The amendment also requires the PSC to consult with the WLIB before approving any land information grant component, extends the sunset of the WLIB to 9/1/2005, and provides a one-time appropriation of $50,000 to the WI Dept. of Administration to analyze land information grant components.

AB 61, as now written, is significant in that it recognizes the value of WLIP-derived information for a use that was not anticipated when the WLIP was established. It demonstrates the concept that land information is appropriate for many uses within a variety of organizational structures.

AB 61 next has to gain full Senate approval, then go back to the Assembly for consideration of the Senate’s changes. The final step would be the governor’s signature.