9-1-1 is part of America’s critical infrastructure, but it profoundly lags behind in technology. Public safety communications professionals across the country deserve to have the best tools available to protect and save lives. Next Generation 9-1-1 promises to deliver many benefits, including putting 9-1-1 on par with technology used in the commercial sector, which for today means seamlessly exchanging texts, photos, videos, multimedia, and other data. What will it take to finally make good on this promise and achieve fully deployed NG 9-1-1 service throughout the United States?
We Need to Work from a Comprehensive Definition of NG 9-1-1
Some states and localities are making progress towards NG 9-1-1 by replacing legacy networks with IP-based connectivity, referred to as ESInets or Emergency Services IP Networks. To be fully deployed, NG 9-1-1 has to mean an end-to-end, all-IP network that includes not only the connectivity afforded by ESInets but also the equipment and services needed to enable every 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) to process new forms of data. To illustrate, this means when a member of the public can send a multimedia message such as a photo or video to a PSAP that in turn is capable of receiving, analyzing, and forwarding this information to a field responder to render an emergency response. This is not yet possible anywhere in the country.
Defining NG 9-1-1 in this comprehensive manner will best ensure that all stakeholders work in unison to effectively implement NG 9-1-1 across the United States. This includes innovators, technology companies, federal, state and local government officials, and 9-1-1 professionals. It also helps better identify the need and urgency to modernize 9-1-1 particularly for elected officials, and mitigate confusion on the part of the general public, whose expectations about the capabilities of 9-1-1 are increasingly far from reality.
APCO has suggested a comprehensive definition to the FCC for use in its annual reports on 9-1-1 fee diversion, and the definition will be refined for APCO’s upcoming report on Broadband Implications for the PSAP (to be released at our annual conference this August).