GeoSpatial (location based) Routing- We Tried


When I took over this project in 2013, one feature that appealed to me was geospatial  routing. Instead of wireless 9-1-1 calls being routed to a PSAP based on the cell tower/sector database, it would now be routed to the correct PSAP based on the location of the caller. (You NG9-1-1 technical types out there- you know the acronyms and flow)

We have hundreds of cell towers and 18 PSAPs, so the idea of avoiding/reducing 9-1-1 transfers between PSAPs  made tremendous sense.

There were plans to create a geofence around our main courthouse and the airport. Both of these facilities are located within the City of West Palm Beach, yet – as County facilities- are staffed by the County Sheriffs Office. Placing a geofence around these properties and routing 9-1-1 calls from within the geofence directly to the Sheriffs Office makes sense and, as we were told, easy to do.



Palm Beach County Courthouse West Palm Beach

Our GIS team attended training, reviewed the standards and went to work on preparing our data. A few months ago, after having the data professionally ‘vetted’, we felt that we were ready to move forward with location based- geospatial- routing.

Around this same time we were asked to look at the current routing of 9-1-1 calls FROM the Town of Palm Beach. Donald Trump has a ocean front home on the island (not far from  our offices).  The town is a 16 mile long, narrow, barrier island. There are only a few cell towers. As a result, a number of 9-1-1 calls that originate on the island are connected to cell tower sectors across the intracoastal waterway. They are routed first to a ‘mainland’ PSAP and then transferred back to the island.

The ideal scenario would be to route all 9-1-1 calls directly to the Town of Palm Beach PSAP. In this scenario, turning on geospatial routing made sense.

In our industry there is a lot of talk about implementing this feature. So- when we reached out to the wireless carriers to let them know we were ready- we were surprised at the response.

Today, wireless carriers in our area are not ready to transition away from the MSAG and cell sector routing. It appears to be a complex issue. A portion of the 9-1-1 fee is returned to the carriers for providing  9-1-1 services (including the MSAG), so moving away from this may take time.

I have been told that there are NG9-1-1 deployments out there that are doing geospatial routing. I do not mean holding the call and waiting for the ‘Phase 2’ data as the initial input..

If you are reading this and are truly doing geospatial, please comment below – I’d love to speak with your wireless provider. In the meantime there are options being discussed in certain working groups, led by the FCC.


3 thoughts on “GeoSpatial (location based) Routing- We Tried

  1. Jeff Robertson

    Great article for sure. I feel that originally when wireless carriers interconnected to the “land line” based 50 year old 9-1-1 network, it does not transition well for this. Where I have seen this is when PSAPs (large regional or state ones) connect directly to the wireless carriers and bypass the landline carrier’s selective router. With that being said, most wireless carriers do not have the expertise or motivation to do this. Your article makes a lot of sense but until we remove TDM based selective routers and connect directly I worry it will not be a reality.


  2. John Ellison

    You may find some of these geospatial routing solutions are taking the same PI or PII location data you receive and use it to route. There is an improvement for the calls that arrive with PII location, but as you know, currently this does not happen in most calls. The day will come I believe, but it is not today…


  3. Fred White

    Great article, as always.

    Looking forward to the day when public safety systems will get accurate and immediate (or near immediate) location information to enable these kinds of goals.

    There are definitely efforts underway to enable geospatial routing even before NG911, like what we’re doing at LaaSer, and it’s just a matter of adoption on a large scale.

    We’re happy to talk with any PSAP professionals that we haven’t met yet to give a preview of what the future looks like. Kudos to forward-thinking organizations like Palm Beach County for driving for change!

    Fred White
    CEO, LaaSer


Comments are closed