Projects & Improvements

Parks Wayfinding for Emergency Services Project

Project Description

This project pilots a wayfinding approach to help Emergency Services locate the scene of an emergency/incident within larger parks and on park trails. It includes installation and mapping of location identification signs, called Park Location Points, in parks. The geospatial location data for Park Location Points is shared with Emergency Services - Toronto Police Service, Toronto Paramedic Services and Toronto Fire Services, through the City's Geospatial Competency Centre.

Park Location Point (PLP) signs are highly visible and easy to read.  Each sign includes instructions to call 911 and a unique Park Location ID number. When an emergency or incident occurs near a Park Location Point, the unique Park Location ID number can be relayed to 911. With this information, Emergency Services can more accurately locate a scene. Park Location ID numbers can also be used to pinpoint the location for 311-related service requests. PLP signs will be installed in high use areas and along trails at intervals no greater than 500m.

High Park and Centennial Park in Etobicoke were selected for the pilot based on volume of emergency calls, park size, usage, and geography. Morningside Park in Scarborough has also been added as a pilot park location. A total of 88 Park Location Point (PLP) signs will be installed at the pilot park locations with a possible seven additional signs:

The pilot project by City of Toronto, Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division in partnership with Toronto Police Service, Toronto Paramedic Services, and Toronto Fire Services was officially kicked off in July 2014. A pilot assessment and recommendations report will be presented to the Parks and Environment Committee in late 2017.

This project contributes to the City’s strategic goal of improving capacity to prevent and respond to emergencies to ensure that Toronto residents and communities are safe with a focus on Toronto’s vulnerable communities.

Project Background

The Parks and Environment Committee directed PFR to look at the feasibility of using numbered life saving stations and GPS data to improve safety in parks. After a scan of other similar municipal initiatives, this pilot project was launched to implement emergency services wayfinding through the use of existing mapped assets (including the Life Saving Stations), a sign system and shared geospatial data to improve the ability of Emergency Services to locate and respond to incidents in larger parks and on trails.

During an emergency situation, especially in larger parks, individuals may find it difficult to describe a location or provide directions to the scene of an incident. Emergency Services currently uses a variety of methods to help determine a caller's location. The Emergency Services Wayfinding system will provide another method to assist emergency services in pinpointing the scene of an incident or emergency.

Scope of Project

The pilot project has four stages:

  1. Installation of two types of highly visible, reflective yellow PLP signs on existing park assets including waste bin posts, life saving stations, light poles and one picnic area:
    • updated version of the life saving station sign which includes a Park Location ID number
    • stand-alone 8" diameter round sign incorporating a Park Location ID number and instructions to call 911 in an emergency

  2. Mapped coordinates of PLPs shared with Emergency Services
    Park Location ID numbers and map coordinates of PLPs, along with the park name and asset category, are shared with Emergency Services Divisions. This information will be available in the emergency dispatch and response systems when responding to calls in the pilot parks.

  3. Emergency services staff training 
    Emergency dispatch and response staff will be trained to include a question about the PLP sign and Park Location ID number when taking calls in the pilot parks.

  4. Public information about the pilot project on the City's website.

Project schedule

July 2014 Project kick off
September 2014 Develop Emergency Services Wayfinding Guidelines / Processes
October 2014 Site Selection; Data & Visits
November 2014 Park Location Points identified, mapped & numbered
December 2014 Sign Design
January 2015 Pilot Sites approved
February 2015 Mapped coordinates of Parks Location Points shared with Emergency Services
March 2015 Emergency Services Systems prepared; Sign Production
April 2015 Training & Communication
April / May 2015 Park Location Point sign installation; Field Testing
September 2017 Pilot period ends
Q4 2017 Pilot assessment and recommendations report to Parks and Environment Committee

Questions and Answers

ExpandHow does a member of the public use the Park Location ID number?

In an emergency, call 9-1-1. If a bright yellow Park Location Point sign is within view, you can provide the emergency services operator with the Park Location ID number on the sign. Emergency Services can use this number to locate you.

If you notice an issue in a Park (for example, damage to a park asset, graffiti, etc.), you can call 311 and report it. If a bright yellow Park Location Point sign is within view, you can provide the 311 call taker with the Park Location ID number (PL ID) on the sign. The PL ID can be used by Parks staff to locate the issue.

ExpandWhat if I am not near one of these signs?

In an emergency, call 911. Emergency services operators will use other landmarks, buildings, park features and your cell phone location when available to attempt to find your location in the park.

ExpandHow were the sign locations selected?

A draft guideline for PLP sign installation was developed for the pilot project that identified a requirement for signs at intervals no greater than 500 metres throughout the park with priority given to high-use park amenities (example, playgrounds, sports fields, picnic areas), trail decision points and life saving stations.  The scope of the project includes sign installation only on existing assets.

ExpandHow were the pilot parks selected?

The pilot parks were selected based on the perceived requirement for emergency services wayfinding which was assessed based on the size of the park, number of emergency calls (past year), park use (based on permit data), and the appearance of ravine features and open water (number of life saving stations) in the park. The final site selection process considered the number of high-use park amenities and Pan Am Game sites.

ExpandIsn't this adding to the number of signs in parks?

Yes, temporarily. For the pilot project, the Park Location Point signs will only be installed on existing assets which means that no new sign posts will be installed.

This pilot is designed to assess the usefulness of the Emergency Services Wayfinding approach for Toronto Police Service, Toronto Paramedic Services, and Toronto Fire Services in locating incidents in parks. Assuming the pilot is successful, the Park Location ID number on the Park Location Park could simply be incorporated in existing park asset signs.

A second phase of the Parks Wayfinding for Emergency Services pilot project is planned to work alongside the broader Toronto Parks & Trails Wayfinding initiative to pilot integrated emergency services wayfinding along the Lower Don Recreational Trail from Pottery Road to Lake Shore Blvd. E, and Riverdale Parks East and West. On this pilot site, the Park Location ID number will be incorporated in the wayfinding signage.

ExpandWhy are signs needed? Can't the location of a 911 caller be identified using the cell phone signal?

When 9-1-1 is dialed from a cell phone, the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) will receive the following information:

  • Address of the cell tower that the 9-1-1 call was placed from
  • The call back telephone number for the caller
  • A second packet of data that may include latitude and longitude (lat/long) coordinates

It is important to note that although lat/long coordinates may be provided with the 9-1-1 call, this is not a pinpoint accurate location. Lat/long information is provided to 9-1-1 with a location radius (in metres) which could range in size from very minimal to very large. This information is another tool that may assist the 9-1-1 call taker in locating a caller that may be unsure of their location.

ExpandWhy are the sites both in the west end of the city?

This pilot is to investigate the feasibility of emergency services wayfinding in larger parks with a small budget for materials. The sites were selected based on the requirement for emergency services wayfinding and in locations with a high volume of park users to provide the greatest opportunity to test the approach and the Park Location Points signs.

Parks, Forestry & Recreation is also working on a broader Parks & Trails Wayfinding Initiative. A second phase of the Parks Wayfinding for Emergency Services pilot project is planned to work alongside the broader initiative to pilot integrated emergency services wayfinding along a trail system: the Pan Am Path located along the Lower Don Trail.

ExpandHow will success of the project be measured?

The main purpose of the project is to assess the usefulness of the Emergency Services Wayfinding approach for Toronto Police Service, Toronto Paramedic Services, and Toronto Fire Services in locating incidents in parks. Success factors include emergency services staff training, PLP sign locations and guidelines, public awareness, Park Location Point sign design and installation, Emergency Services Wayfinding field testing and supporting business processes.