Next-Generation 9-1-1, the initiative aimed at updating the 9-1-1 system across the United States, is forcing state and local governments to abandon their traditional emergency phone networks in exchange for Internet Protocol networks, which can send digital voice, photo and video information over the internet. According to Route 50, a speedy transition is critical, in part because 70 percent of 9-1-1 calls are now made with wireless phones that cannot be accurately routed with existing technology.
Upgrading the 9-1-1 infrastructure would enable emergency responders to get to callers faster and receive detailed information, like video from a crime scene as it happens. Some proponents of the transition say it could also save local governments money by consolidating call centers on a statewide or regional network.
The National Emergency Number Association (NENA), which represents government agencies and private firms involved in the emergency system, and the National 9-1-1 Program, housed in the U.S. Department of Transportation, are pushing states and localities to adopt what they call Next Generation 9-1-1.
The cost of making the switch will vary by jurisdiction, but major metropolitan governments can expect to spend between $5 million and $7 million, and potentially more depending on other equipment and network needs. The 9-1-1 program is studying the costs associated with the transition to help Congress develop a long-term funding plan.
Trey Fogerty, government affairs director at NENA, points out that Next Generation 9-1-1 systems are necessary because there are significant gaps between the data that can be sent via cellphone over new networks and the information most emergency call centers are capable of receiving.
“How often do you actually make a telephone call? It’s very rare,” Forgety said.
Finding callers who aren’t using landlines, which are registered to a physical address, has been a problem since cellphones became popular in the 1990s. Calls to 9-1-1 from cellphones are not routed based on the exact location of the caller, but on the location of the tower transmitting that call. This can lead to emergency calls getting answered by faraway call centers and make it hard for responders to locate the caller.
Next Generation 9-1-1 will be able to use technology like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth signals and geographic information systems to find mobile callers, Forgety said.
For instance, office buildings could install Bluetooth beacons in exit signs, he said. When a cellphone pings that beacon during a 9-1-1 call, dispatchers can tell emergency responders which floor the call is coming from.
“If there’s something in the handset that can help us find a 9-1-1 caller, we ought to be using those,” Forgety said. “It’s silly that Uber or Google can find me and 9-1-1 can’t.”
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Trey Fogerty will be a guest speaker at this year’s MACo Summer Conference, where you can learn about the transition to Next Generation 9-1-1 in Maryland.
Here are more details:
Title: 9-1-1 The Next Generation – Everything Will Change, Except the Numbers
Description: The majority of calls received by 9-1-1 answering points now come from mobile phone users. As our residents move to mobile, our 9-1-1 systems must increase their capabilities to receive mobile communications. Next Generation 9-1-1 will allow our public safety answering points to receive texts and photos, triangulate mobile phone caller positions, and transfer phone calls to the correct public safety answering point. In this session, state representatives will describe how to ensure a safe, efficient transition to Next Generation 9-1-1 in Maryland, and any technical, fiscal, and policy issues that must first be addressed. County representatives will describe challenges and successes of maintaining critical 9-1-1 services.
- Trey Forgety, Director of Government Affairs, National Emergency Numbers Association
- Scott Roper, Executive Director, Emergency Number Systems Board
- Tony Rose, Chief of Fire and EMS Communications, Charles County, Chair of National Capital Region 911 Directors
- Jack Markey, Emergency Manager, Frederick County
- Kenny Miller, Regional Public Safety GIS Team Lead, Michael Baker International and Co-Chair NG 9-1-1 Committee, National States Geographic Information Council Michael Baker International and NSGIC
Moderator: The Honorable Adrienne Jones, Maryland House of Delegates
Date/Time: Thursday, August 18, 2016; 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
The MACo Summer Conference will be held August 17-20, 2016 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “Cyber Solutions: Counties in the Digital Age.”
Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: