Saving Lives With Next Generation 9-1-1 Systems
In the world of emergency services—where quick action can be the difference between life and death – police, fire and other first responder organizations are trying to keep up with today’s technology by upgrading their 9-1-1 services to accommodate people for whom traditional voice calls are often the last option.
People today are tethered to their smartphones with the ability to text, take pictures and shoot videos, and are linked to social media sites that are a go-to place of public interaction. When they witness an accident, crime or other crisis, they want to be able to share that critical information in the manner they’ve become accustomed to communicating in their everyday lives. When reporting an emergency to a 9-1-1 call center, people may instinctively try to record a video or snap a picture and then share it via a text message, yet most call centers are not currently able to accept those potentially critical pieces of information.
Federal, state, local and tribal governments that manage emergency services, as part of the Next Generation 911 (NG9-1-1) initiative, are focused on updating their ability to receive information in every format, upgrading their public safety answering points (PSAPs) to handle wireless technologies, communications in multiple formats (including text, images and videos) and tapping into reports made via Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets. Police, firefighters and paramedics don’t care how the information got there, only that their dispatchers receive it and were able to give them timely, accurate facts to aid and speed their response.
Emergency services organizations have steadily updated their PSAPs since the dawn of 9-1-1 services in 1968. Since then, PSAPs have proliferated and gone digital, giving dispatchers faster, more accurate information on incidents and locations. But with the advent of Wi-Fi almost everywhere, voice over IP (VOIP) and various smartphone capabilities have been replacing landline voice calls.
The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) first began making plans for NG9-1-1 decades ago. Currently, 11 states are using an IP-based, cloud-connected NG9-1-1 system to process calls, according to NENA’s most recent snapshot. Ten others say implementation is in progress, and the rest are in planning and development stages, or did not provide data to NENA.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) awarded $109 million in grants this year to state and tribal recipients to help with the upgrade to NG9-1-1 but many organizations have found the transition difficult for both technical and funding reasons. There have also been quite a few successes. Pima County, Arizona was able to upgrade their aging 9-1-1 system despite having a tight budget. And some states have implemented a comprehensive approach that enhanced their emergency services with next-generation 9-1-1 technology statewide.
Agencies and departments that need help making the jump to NG9-1-1 can find it with CenturyLink’s Managed Emergency Call Handling, which enables organizations to make the switch frequently without buying new equipment while helping to ensure that legacy systems remain in operation during the transition. Our Managed Emergency Call Handling is compatible with all major 9-1-1 call routing platforms, so it allows organizations to adopt the new capabilities of NG9-1-1 and implement them on the go, while continuing to maintain their legacy operations.
We believe that the journey of NG9-1-1 begins with the network. The network is the foundation that integrates all the elements of NG9-1-1. Our global WAN infrastructure is one the largest in the world and can solve a significant problem many PSAPs have faced while trying to upgrade their systems: lack of bandwidth.
Providing an interoperable, software-defined infrastructure can give organizations the ability to adopt new technologies in a timely manner. An essential factor in any emergency response is accurate location information, which isn’t always readily available. A caller (or texter, or someone sending an image) might not know where they are, or in some cases, might not be able to communicate. The Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet) developed for NG9-1-1 will eventually be able to receive location information from wireless service providers and transmit that information to PSAPs. The NG9-1-1 initiative also includes plans for additional methods of emergency communications and data sharing that a next-generation PSAP should be able to incorporate, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning applications that could provide real-time on-site analysis.
The ability to accept calls for help in any format and process that information immediately to get the right emergency units to the right place as quickly as possible is the goal for every PSAP and every first responder. Working with a partner that has experience helping PSAPs plan and implement their transition to NG9-1-1 can help make this important goal a reality.
Learn more about bringing your 9-1-1 system into the 21st century.
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