The Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) Across Maryland, a 2018 MACo Legislative Initiative that will help Maryland prepare for the deployment of a statewide Next Generation 9-1-1 system that our residents expect and deserve, held its second meeting today in Annapolis.
Maryland residents demand and expect 9-1-1 emergency service to be reliable and efficient. Next-generation technology is required to keep up with this increasingly complex public safety function – improving wireless caller location, accommodating incoming text/video, and managing crisis-driven call overflows.
The Commission will examine the strategic aspects of NG911 implementation in coordination with the existing efforts of the Emergency Number Systems Board (ENSB), with a particular emphasis on addressing areas outside of the statutory responsibilities of the ENSB. The Commission will study and make recommendations for the implementation, technology, funding, governance, and ongoing statewide development of NG911 to the Governor and Maryland General Assembly.
The Commission’s December report must cover seven subjects, the first of which is the needs, both capital and operating, to bring efficient and effective NG911 technology and service across Maryland, and estimated costs required to effect this priority outcome.
In order to meet the initial reporting deadline of December 1, 2018, the Commission established four subcommittees – Finance, Staffing, Technology and Cybersecurity, and Oversight and Accountability. Each subcommittee today presented preliminary recommendations to the full Commission.
The transition to NG911 cannot be achieved without significant funding to upgrade our existing 9-1-1 equipment and communications systems, which are already under-funded through existing user fees. With the transition to NG911, costs which may not have traditionally been associated with 9-1-1 services may now fall within the purview of such services. This includes additional systems that are needed to support the additional types and formats of data which may be transmitted to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), commonly known as 9-1-1 call centers.
Maryland’s 9-1-1 fee structure is unlike those levied by every other state in that it assesses one user fee per bill, rather than assessing fees based on a per-line or per-device basis. The Finance Subcommittee recommends conforming Maryland’s fee structure to other states, basing the fee on a per-device basis, with with a formula for commercial and non-profit organizations with multiple phones.
Oversight and Accountability
The transition to NG911 brings with it an opportunity to assess governance concerns not previously existent within legacy 9-1-1. New levels of coordination, education, and funding aspects of the governance structure need to be defined or redefined. Addressing these concerns during the planning and implementation phases of NG911 will help ensure a more smooth transition to NG911.
Technology and Cybersecurity
The transition to NG911 will significantly increase the vulnerability of 9-1-1 centers to cyber attacks. This increased vulnerability raises significant concerns that must be addressed through effective cybersecurity measures, and these protective measures will result in new and ongoing expenses in an NG911 environment.
The workforce of Next Generation PSAPs will need to expand existing knowledge, skills, and abilities to include cybersecurity awareness and familiarity with digital, broadband, and IP based technology. NG911 Telecommunicators will need to sift through and prioritize increased volumes and types of data, including unsettling imagery.
Because county governments are at the heart of 9-1-1 service delivery, MACo prepared and submitted to the Commission a Next Generation 9-1-1 White Paper. MACo hopes to continue to serve as a resource for additional information from county governments throughout the Commission’s deliberations.
MACo’s Legislative Committee voted at their September 12, 2018 meeting to adopt the Association’s four priorities for the 2019 Session. Updating state laws, and the 9-1-1 financing system, to provide the flexibility and resources needed for the transition to NG911, will again be a top priority for county governments.
The Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland will hold its next meeting on Monday, November 19, 2018; 10:00 am – 4:00 pm at the Joint Hearing Room in Annapolis, Maryland.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.