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Addressing Address Data that Works for You

Date: 2014-03-01
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How do you respond when someone asks for your address? Do you give them a P.O. Box, City & Zip? Or do you think of a street name and neighborhood? Some might provide a detailed address including house number, apartment unit if appropriate, and even a community name. Of course, it’s all dependent upon the purpose behind the question.

We rely on addressing in multiple, everyday situations – mailing, navigation, emergency response and others. Addresses are assigned to single and multi-family homes, apartment buildings, industrial and commercial structures, and government structures. In some areas, addresses are assigned to identify infrastructure facilities, such as communication towers, fire hydrants, utility poles, bridges, and boat ramps.

GIS professionals are challenged with designing a geospatial database model that manages address data. To be successful, the data model must meet the standards of all disciplines and uses. Luckily, there are several address standard working groups that have identified the importance of addressing and have been developing such standards. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has developed Publication 28, Postal Addressing Standards, which defines the formatting of addresses for the processing and delivery of mail. The FGDC (Federal Geographic Data Committee) developed the United States Thoroughfare, Landmark, and Postal Address Data Standard which defines multiple fields for address data exchange.

In particular, for 9-1-1, consider:

The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) is working on several standards documents including Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) United States Civic Location Data Exchange Format (CLDXF) Standard. The CLDXF would define the civic location data elements that will be used to support the NENA-compliant Next Generation systems, databases, call routing, call handling, and related processes.

The Standard for NG9-1-1 GIS Data Model that defines the database model that will be used to support the NG9-1-1  systems, databases, call routing, call handling, and related processes.

NENA also has a workgroup developing a Site/Structure Address Point GIS Data for 9-1-1 document to serve as a guide as to where to place the address point and how many address points are really necessary.

NENA, the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA), the USPS, FGDC, and the U. S. Census Bureau are working collaboratively to update their separate standards. The good news is that while each standard is for their own specific purpose, the content will have similar data elements where they overlap. Several of the workgroups are comprised of individuals who volunteer their time and industrial knowledge to develop these standards.

These standards may not impact your response to the original question, “What is your address?” but they will undoubtedly clear the path for GIS professionals to more effectively help emergency responders find people who need help.


Kim Paxton, GISP and Sales Engineer for the Government Solutions Division at Intrado, has been actively involved with the Public Safety 9-1-1 community for the past 10 years.  With over 29 years’ experience in mapping and GIS, Kim is also a past 9-1-1 Coordinator, State of Florida E9-1-1 Board Member and Treasurer for the Florida NENA Executive Board.  She has been instrumental in implementing numerous Enterprise GIS Solutions, Geospatial Mapping, and 9-1-1 applications.



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