|SWVA Technology Council Award|
Southwestern Virginia Technology Council
2011 High Technology in Government Award
The Southwestern Virginia Technology Council (SWVTC) announced Mountain Empire Regional GIS (MERG) as the winner of the coveted 2011 High Technology in Government Award. The MERG project streamlines the process for data sharing among localities and the state through development of a regional GIS data replication system in near real-time. It significantly improves public safety in a large region of the state, and is the largest regional geographic data repository project in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The project began when the Virginia counties of Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth and Washington and the City of Bristol identified a need to improve emergency response to 9-1-1 calls. The area is significantly mountainous and largely rural. Within the 2,505 square miles covered by the MERG project, there are numerous areas of sparse population and difficult access. 5,440 miles of roads, 97,066 addressed structures and 182,975 citizens depend upon the six government entities in a variety of public safety events, which rarely adhere to county lines. Public safety answering points (PSAPs) can be affected by the terrain, particularly when calls originate from cellular telephones. Frequently, the area has need for coordinated response across government boundaries. For example, Scott County transferred 949 emergency 9-1-1 calls to other jurisdictions in 2010. Mapping, and particularly current and correct mapping, can be critical to effective response.