A Municipal Decision-Maker’s Guide to NG911View the guide
Key Facts You Need to Know for Your Transition
Our communications landscape is evolving at a rapid pace, which is driving the demand for next generation 911 (NG911) services nationwide. The undertaking of NG911, is groundbreaking – public safety answering points (PSAPs) will gain access to updated wireless communications technology – including text, video and enhanced location services which will bridge the gap between first responders and the communities who rely on them.
Since the first 911 call was placed in February 1968, aside from a few upgrades to accommodate VoIP and wireless services, the underlying infrastructure supporting emergency calls has mostly remained the same. Given how much the rest of the communications world has changed, it comes as no surprise, especially to key emergency services stakeholders, there is a problem with effectively handing off meaningful information to first responders.
Shortcomings of the Legacy 911 Ecosystem
The old infrastructure cannot adequately support the high volume of emergencies. Not enough dispatchers are present in a single center to effectively manage atypical situations when they arise. For instance, during 2017 in Dallas, TX unexpected call spikes overwhelmed dispatchers. Numerous other instances of network congestion resulted in blocked or dropped calls, especially in large-scale emergencies.
They’re failure-prone and vulnerable to attack.
In 2016, a malicious Twitter link exploited a bug in iOS to force phones to repeatedly dial 911, effectively performing a distributed denial-of-service attack against dispatch. As of the time of writing, there is no easy way to defend against 911 attacks with traditional emergency systems.
They’re made for a world without smartphones.
Current emergency services infrastructure does not leverage the capabilities of smartphones, such as the ability to record video or take photos. They also provide inadequate support for wireless 911 calls, being unable to effectively gather emergency location information. And even those municipalities which have made an effort to modernize, find their public safety infrastructure is outdated again within a few years.
Hearing-impaired individuals cannot effectively leverage technologies such as real-time text (RTT) to make emergency calls versus using antiquated teletype (TTY) technology — even text-to-911 is not supported within many jurisdictions.
They lack support for new technologies.
Today, video-sharing, IoT devices, OTT applications and telematics etc. are commonplace and are not typically supported. Jurisdictions are locked in with single-vendor solutions and those vendors may not be positioned to offer best in industry capabilities.
We’ve known for quite some time something needs to change. That’s why state and local municipalities across the United States and Canada have joined forces for the NG911 initiative. But what is it, exactly?
What is NG911?
The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) implemented the Next Generation 911 (NG911) Program in 2003. NG911 systems operate on an Internet Protocol (IP) platform and enable interconnection among a wide range of public and private networks, such as wireless networks, the Internet and regular phone networks. NG911 systems enhance the capabilities of today’s 911 networks, allowing compatibility with greater types of communication systems, establishing increased situational awareness to dispatchers and emergency responders, and delivering a level of resiliency not previously possible.
NG911 will allow 911 centers, or Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), to accept and process a myriad of information including voice calls, text, images and video. Through standardization, it aims to help municipalities and emergency responders alike update not just their architecture, but the way they approach emergencies at large. The NG911 initiative hopes to accomplish a few, but important objectives:
- Transition from the current 911 legacy infrastructure to a system based on modern networking technology
- Establish standards for emergency operations, which can be applied throughout the U.S. and Canada
- Devise an easy-to-follow plan for migration and implementation
“You can’t find people in the phone companies knowledgeable about the old technology anymore,” NENA technical issues director, Robert Hixson told GovTech in 2014. “The intention is to have interconnected networks. That type of interoperability requires standards. People in public safety also indicated they wanted more flexible systems not just in terms of multimedia versus voice, but also in terms of their ability to pick different vendors and have them operate together, so they weren’t locked in with just one vendor.”
FirstNet is a nationwide government-backed wireless broadband network designed specifically for emergency services. FirstNet represents a massive upgrade from current architecture, capable of supporting hundreds of simultaneous communication streams while also enabling greater functionality and interoperability. It also exists independently from public communication channels. Both the FirstNet network and NG 911 technologies lay the foundation for integration, which will fundamentally change the way emergency service calls are managed.
According to 911.gov, NG911 and FirstNet are two halves of a unified whole. The former enables better connectivity with mobile and smart devices while also allowing the public to send digital data to dispatch. The latter provides the foundational core network architecture through which this data is transmitted to the first responder during an emergency.
What Benefits Does NG911 Offer?
NG911 has been referred to as a game-changer for emergency services. This is not an inaccurate assessment. The 911 upgrade initiative is immensely beneficial for a multitude of reasons:
- Enhanced reliability, resiliency and availability
- Improved cybersecurity coupled with the capacity to defend against advanced cyber attacks
- Support for text and rich media in 911 conversations
- Interoperability between 911 systems and databases containing medical records, building plans and other pertinent information
- Support for the Internet of Things (IoT), with connected endpoints such as sensors and wearable tech providing even greater visibility and situational awareness during emergencies
- Enhanced routing ensures dispatch centers can share the load of 911 communications, keeping dispatchers from being overwhelmed even during widespread emergencies
Preparing for NG911: A Decision-Maker’s Checklist
Whether you’re implementing NG911 on the state or local level, the process is much the same, as are the requirements. Unfortunately, as you’ve doubtless already surmised, the official Standards for Enhanced and Next Generation 911 at 145 pages is…well, calling it “dense” would be putting it lightly. Fortunately, we have several resources at our disposal to pare things down and make them a bit more digestible.
Drawing from 911.gov’s NG911 & FirstNet, Together Building the Future of Public Safety Communications and the Canadian 911 Coalition’s Transition Roadmap you’ll be able to prepare for implementation.
Preparing for NG911 Implementation
Hardware & Technology
- Support either FirstNet or an independently developed network which adheres to FirstNet’s standards
- A NG911 solution comprises key areas including, ingress call aggregation and next generation core systems (GIS, MIS and ESInet) giving emergency services decision makers the options and flexibility to meet their needs
- Confirm all PSAPs and dispatch centers leverage an IP phone system that complies with NENA i3 Standards
- Ensure information from various sources (smartphones, IoT sensors and video feeds) is adequately logged and securely stored — this includes maintaining comprehensive backups
- Incorporate an analytics solution to glean insights for improving the 911 response process
- Implement a unified communication system to enable better, more streamlined communication between PSAPs
- Safeguard with enough redundancies in place so you can guarantee effective, public safety grade solutions
- Confirm data exchange between different systems is standardized
- Deploy a system for geo-location mapping to conform to national standards
Process & Policy
- Follow 911.gov to determine national funding programs and status plus perform a budgetary analysis with the Next Generation 911 Self-Assessment Tool to determine overall readiness
- Implement training processes and systems to certify dispatchers are efficiently onboarded
- Follow 911 SAVES Act to update the job description and official responsibilities of emergency communications officers
- Ensure your organization has comprehensive policies for:
- Data storage and retention, compliant with both national and local guidelines
- Stakeholder communication
- System and process evaluation plans for improvement
- Data sharing
- Select vendors whose systems conform to national standards
- Define a transition plan to NG911 which does not disrupt daily operations
Preparing for NG911 implementation is not something any single individual or agency can accomplish independently. To fulfill the requirements and tick the boxes listed above, you will need to engage with multiple departments and stakeholders. This includes first responders, IT, emergency call centers and other government agencies.
But honestly, collaboration is at the core of NG911 — with this in mind, learn from others who have successfully deployed a next generation 911 solution. With their guidance, you can determine the best way forward, and ultimately bring your emergency response process into the modern-day.
What Value Does Inteliquent Bring to Your NG911 Transition?
Inteliquent actively advocates for a collaborative, interoperable NG911 environment. We urge buying centers to consider diversified solutions and vendors for the key components such as, ingress call aggregation, next generation core systems, ESInet, GIS, MIS and call handling.
We’re committed to providing you with an industry-leading solution for NG911 call aggregation solution:
- We are deeply interconnected utilizing nationwide points of interconnection (POIs) and maintain strong relationships with most of the originating service providers (OSPs), specifically with wireless originating providers — we have unsurpassed aptitude for delivering end-to-end SIP, NG911 calls
- Our OSP migrations are tightly planned, meaning your calls can be moved to Inteliquent’s architecture, quickly after deployment resulting in cost efficiencies and predictable implementation
- Our solutions are built on top of our carrier-diverse as well as path-diverse public safety grade network
- Our industry-leading expertise is in ingress call aggregation which makes it effortless for service providers to transition to NG911 interconnection and i3 location delivery
Talk to our experts and let us help you get started with your best next generation emergency service solution.