What NG9-1-1 Means For Your Agency

By Jessica Barker

Communication pathways are constantly expanding in today’s world, and law enforcement agencies must be open to changing with them so as to better serve their communities. In past years, this has involved steps such as implementing technology that allows community members to access important crime statistics in their neighborhoods. Other examples include using crime mapping software to reveal trends and predict future needs in certain areas of the community. Now, agencies have the opportunity to further bridge the communication gap between their personnel and the community through enhanced call-taking capabilities.

Past and current 9-1-1 systems have focused on getting call information to the proper Public Safety Answering Point, or PSAP. However, this is no longer enough in today’s society, where mobile devices offer instant access to more efficient communication technology. Public safety agencies can take advantage of this technology by integrating with the same communication methods that citizens use in their daily lives, helping to connect them with their local law enforcement during critical moments. That’s where Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) comes in.

The NG9-1-1 project was created by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and the Association of Public-Safety Communication Officials (APCO) as a way to update emergency services with the same capabilities that are present in everyday life. This includes functions such as sending voice, text, image, and video messaging to a PSAP. It will enable community members to make an emergency request, or “call,” for service from any landline, wireless, or Internet Protocol (IP)-based device. NG9-1-1 can also be utilized by patrons who do not have the ability to speak, such as non-verbal citizens, or those that feel they may be endangered by making a traditional 9-1-1 call, such as in domestic abuse cases.

In addition to enabling more devices to make emergency calls, NG9-1-1 will improve 9-1-1 communications in a number of ways for agencies as well. Because citizens can include images and videos with their message, NG9-1-1 will increase the amount of information delivered to dispatchers with each call, allowing first responders to get a more detailed account of the situation or environment before they ever arrive on scene. Additionally, because everyone will be using the same IP technology, NG9-1-1 will allow the information associated with a call to be more easily shared with everyone involved, including those in other jurisdictions and to more groups throughout the PSAP. This will ensure that participating parties get the critical information they need in a timely manner.

Currently, there are no truly NG9-1-1-compatible Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems. NENA and APCO are still defining the nationwide NG9-1-1 standards that CAD vendors need in order to develop NG9-1-1-compliant systems. Key among these standards is the Emergency Incident Data Document, or EIDD. The EIDD standard defines the structure for transferring information about an emergency incident. The next step toward NG9-1-1 will be to establish the standard for Conveyance of EIDD, which will define how and with whom EIDDs may be shared. The Conveyance standard is expected to be finalized sometime in 2018.

During the time these NG9-1-1 standards are being created, agencies can take certain steps that will help create a smoother transition when the time comes. One way to accomplish this is by investing in the ability to receive Short Message Service (SMS) text messages, such as with Flex’s Text to 9-1-1 module. While this technology enables PSAPs to receive text messages, it does not yet support Multimedia Message Services (MMS) and is only an interim solution until NG9-1-1 is fully implemented. Agencies can also invest in a software system that uses the same structure of web services that will be used to operate NG9-1-1, as well as supports the saving and accessing of many different file types from records, including audio, video, text, and pictures. These kind of software systems will make the transfer easier once NG9-1-1 standards have been set.

Check out the infographic below for trends and statistics on how 9-1-1 texting capabilities are shaping the public safety industry today.

Jessica Barker is an external communications specialist for Spillman Technologies, a Motorola Solutions company.