We all know what to do in an emergency – dial 9-1-1. What many of us don’t know is that after teaching generations of Americans to spontaneously dial those three digits for help, our national 9-1-1 system faces its own emergency. The 9-1-1 infrastructure we’ve relied on for more than 40 years is based on analog technology with fixed endpoints. It’s a design that has quickly become outdated in a digital age where texting, mobile calls, photos and videos are the preferred mode of communication at the swipe or touch of our Android, iPhone and iPad devices.
Since the federal law was passed in February, we’re now seeing the beginning of a complete paradigm shift. Contained within this legislation, which also created the national public safety LTE network, is a provision for $115 million in funding to support Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) technologies. This means that in place of “Old World” E911, we can eventually expect to have a communications structure that’s data centric, integrates multimedia such as text and video, and is based on open standards. Cassidian Communications, a Raytheon partner, stands at the forefront of this next-gen development with its equipment already being used in Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet) solutions in Montana and Texas.
According to the federal government, the $115 million in grant money will come from spectrum auction revenue, with the funding only becoming available after the spectrum is auctioned. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are authorized to oversee grant distribution through the end of fiscal year 2022.
Eligible applicants will be able to receive matching grants of up to 60 percent of a project’s cost. The funds can be used for several purposes, including implementing an IP-enabled emergency network; operating NG9-1-1 services and applications; establishing IP backbone networks and the software infrastructure needed to interconnect emergency response organizations; and training public safety personnel, such as call takers, first responders and others who are part of the emergency response chain in 9-1-1 services.
The benefits of an interoperable NG9-1-1 system would impact all of public safety. It would mean:
1) Improved delivery and management of content from IP endpoints such as IP video, alarms and real-time data;
2) Advanced routing capabilities and more flexible location of call-taking positions;
3) A higher degree of interoperability between emergency call centers (PSAP to PSAP) as well as from PSAPs to first responders; and
4) Potential lower communications costs over the long term when bringing calls into the PSAP and transferring calls out of it.
With NG9-1-1 technologies, situational awareness extends across platforms as soon as the system receives a call or text from any IP-capable device. This is a win-win situation for emergency center call takers, police officers, firefighters and other first responders, as well as those who had to dial for help in the first place.
You can read the full text of the Next Generation 9-1-1 Advancement Act, subtitle E of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act here, starting on page 82. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr3630enr/pdf/BILLS-112hr3630enr.pdf