NG911: On the Horizon
NG911 can lead to faster response times and an increase in lives saved and injuries reduced.
Severe weather events like Hurricane Sandy have increased the focus on 911 calls and how they are serviced. The present 911 calls are dependent on the PSTN. But three developments are driving the development of the Next Generation 911(NG911):
* The growth of IP based networks
* The explosion of wireless communications and loss of landline use
* The eventual demise of the PSTN
Age and Limitations are the Problems
Advances in communications technology over the past 15 years have created the need for a more advanced system to access emergency response services. The existing 911 systems have been a success for more than 30 years, but the outdated systems have been pushed to their technological limits.
Improvements in wireless and IP-based communications devices are emerging rapidly, offering text and video messaging (see my blog, "Finally: Texting to 911").The current 911 systems were not designed with IP and wireless communications, nor text or video, in mind. These new technologies can deliver expanded data about an emergency that the PSTN-based systems cannot handle. Given the aging 911 systems and the emerging new technologies, the nation's 911 systems are in need of overhaul and replacement.
How the PSTN Handles 911 and E911 Calls
A 911 call is routed to the nearest Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). The caller must tell the PSAP personnel the location information and type of emergency assistance needed. But when establishing an Enhanced 911 (E911) call, your voice is not the only thing being transmitted in the network--the PSTN switch also sends out an Automatic Number Identification (ANI) signal to the network. The ANI is employed in relaying needed information to the local PSAP so it can dispatch first responders.
Within each call, information containing eight digits is embedded in the signal. These eight digits contain the seven digits of the caller's local number; the eighth digit is called a Numbering Plan Digit (NPD). NPD is essentially an abbreviation for the area code of the originating call. The 911 switch can read the ANI information and route the caller's number to a digital display at the appropriate PSAP. The PSAP has equipment allowing it to request and receive the caller's physical address without requiring the speaker to provide the location information; the emergency dispatcher receives the Automatic Location Information (ALI).
NG911: The Future
The local NG911 center can receive a multimedia IP-based call and handle incoming texts, photos, videos, and video chat for impaired callers; the ability to handle different media allows emergency dispatchers to distribute the appropriate resources more rapidly, compared to traditional 911 calls. Overflow calls can be automatically distributed to other 911 centers as needed, just like overflow calls are handled by multiple call centers in enterprises. Any vehicle with an Advanced Automatic Collision Notification (AACN) system can automatically send crash data to the 911 center, which dispatches the correct emergency services, even if the passengers are unable to respond.
Decisions on the right equipment and services required can be made more quickly. A hazardous material can be identified with a transmitted photo of a hazmat placard that a motorist can text, and the correct hazmat responders can be notified and arrive more quickly on-scene. Everyone in the vicinity with an Internet-connected device can be automatically notified to avoid the area, and highway message signs can display the warning. What NG911 can do for public safety and first responders is far reaching and can lead to faster response times and an increase in lives saved and injuries reduced.
National Emergency Number Association (NENA)
NENA identified this need for NG911 in 2000, published its Future Path Plan in 2001, and began development activities toward this end in 2003. If you would like to keep with NG911 progress, NENA provides information on the project.
According to the NENA website:
"NENA serves the public safety community as the only professional organization solely focused on 9-1-1 policy, technology, operations, and education issues. With more than 7,000 members in 48 chapters across North America and around the globe, NENA promotes the implementation and awareness of 911 and international three-digit emergency communications systems.
NENA works with public policy leaders; emergency services and telecommunications industry partners; like-minded public safety associations; and other stakeholder groups to develop and carry out critical programs and initiatives; to facilitate the creation of an IP-based Next Generation 911 system; and to establish industry leading standards, training, and certifications.
NENA works with public policy leaders; emergency services and telecommunications industry partners; like-minded public safety associations; and other stakeholder groups to develop and carry out critical programs and initiatives; to facilitate the creation of an IP-based Next Generation 911 system; and to establish industry leading standards, training, and certifications."
NG911 technology and operations will revolutionize emergency services. This is similar to how the Internet affected the operations of enterprise/SMBs, governments, and educational institutions. It will improve the analysis of emergency situations, produce faster response times, and respond with appropriate resources, thereby saving lives and reducing injuries.
Look for an upcoming second blog on this subject, "Impacts of NG911."