Feb 06 2016 Why Should 911 Be So Hard?



As I look at the field of Emergency Services, I often wonder why 911 centers find it so difficult to keep up with the times. Where 20 years ago, the primary mode of communication was the telephone, today society has the option to interface with one another using a variety of technologies. Mobile phones, Text Messaging, E-mail, Video Conferencing, and Web Collaboration are all common forms of communication available to the average citizen today. Yet, 911 services in the United States remain painfully slow to catch up with these contemporary communication methods, largely relying on 1970s telecommunications technology to provide such a vital service to the community.

Next Generation 9-1-1

Enter “Next Generation 9-1-1” – a bold concept by the National Emergency Numbers Association (NENA), the recognized standards organization for 911 Emergency Services in the United States, to bring emergency services into the 21st Century. With Next Gen 911 (or NG911), NENA proposes to overhaul the antiquated communications infrastructure of the United States and replace it with a state-of-the-art communications network capable of supporting the communications needs of today and the emerging standards of tomorrow. Based upon the Internet Protocol (IP), NG911 promises to create an interconnected labyrinth of networks that not only allows for information about a caller, including location and other relevant situational attributes to accompany a request for assistance. Additionally, NG911 allows for such requests to be routed the best qualified responder available wherever they may be located, and be accompanied with the most complete set of information regarding the incident available to them.

Multi-Channel Support

At the heart of NG911 is the Emergency Services IP Network, or ESInet for short, which will enable the routing and delivery of voice, text, video, and data calls to a 911 center. The ESInet, when available, will allow Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) to interoperate with one another, digitally sharing information and respond to emergencies more quickly and efficiently. But, the first step in the process is to upgrade our struggling PSAPs from the analog age to the digital age. This first step typically means converting the PSAP from standard telephone devices of yesterday to Voice Over IP (VoIP) so that all types of data can be received and manipulated quickly and can be exchanged freely. Then, using the types of solutions being used in more advanced commercial contact centers, our 911 centers can continue their mission of serving and protecting.

So imagine if you will, an ordinary citizen faced with an emergency being able to pull out their mobile device to contact 911, take pictures of the event, stream live video of the incident, and have that information delivered seamlessly to a 911 operator and on to the first responder. The right personnel and equipment, fully prepared for what is really going on with the incident, and fully connected between all relevant responding authorities. With lives and property at risk, this is the ambitious goal of NG911.