To understand why a Next Generation system is needed, let’s look at some problems with today’s 9-1-1 service, and how NG9-1-1 will solve them.
When you call 9-1-1 from home, your phone number and address are automatically delivered to the PSAP with your call. This allows the PSAP to dispatch an emergency vehicle to your location even if you are unable to speak. It could save your life. If you’re away from home, you call 9-1-1 from your cell phone, and the wireless enhancements made in the last few years will deliver your geographic coordinates – sort of. There are still some places where this doesn’t happen, but it became pretty widespread by 2012. But one of the problems is that the geo-coordinates don’t have pinpoint accuracy most of the time. They may simply be the center point of a huge area obtained by the cellular provider “triangulating” between towers that have contact with your phone. So the 9-1-1 center has some idea where you are, but couldn’t really find you based on those geo-coordinates. NG9-1-1 will take advantage of the GPS capabilities of wireless devices to solve this problem, and provide accurate location information so emergency personnel can find you more quickly.
Now, say you’re a hearing impaired person. You can make a TTY/TDD (TeleTYpe/Telephone Device for the Deaf) call from home, and type messages back and forth with a 9-1-1 operator. But if you’re away from home, you’re stuck. You have no way of making a 9-1-1 TTY/TDD call. NG9-1-1 will allow you to send a text message from a cell phone, and eventually include pictures or video, if needed.
Another problem with the current 9-1-1 system occurs when a 9-1-1 call must be transferred to a different PSAP. In most cases, this must be done over standard business lines, which means the location information originally received with the call can’t be transferred with it. NG9-1-1 supports an “Emergency Services IP network” infrastructure that will allow a call – and its data – to be transferred to another PSAP intact. The plan is to leverage the capabilities of this IP infrastructure to carry all this traffic – voice, data, everything.
But there’s more. Consider these other types of data that the NG9-1-1 enabled PSAP will be capable of receiving:
- Vehicle Telematics – this is data transmitted from your car by systems like OnStar, Agero, and others. Advanced Automatic Collision Notification data can be sent to the local PSAP the moment after a crash, even if you are unconscious. It can tell them the speed and impact measurements, and even where you are. Was your car stolen? It can tell the police exactly where it is!
- Emergency Medical Data – this your personal medical information, and could save your life. It might be transmitted from your cell phone, from your car, or from an emergency alert device. The PSAP will eventually be able to transfer this data to the ambulance en route to you, other first responders, or to another assisting PSAP when needed.
- Long Distance 9-1-1 – say you’re on the phone with your mother, who lives in another state, and she has a sudden heart attack. Today, there is no way to make a 9-1-1 call to her local PSAP. You’d have to call the local police or sheriff’s department, which can take time. NG9-1-1 will allow you to call 9-1-1, give her address, and be transferred quickly to her local PSAP – to get her immediate assistance. You could even keep the line with her open, if you have 3-way calling.
- Emergency Alerts – say you’re on the highway, and there’s been a major accident a few miles ahead involving a fuel tanker. The PSAP can send out a voice or text message to all wireless devices in the area, telling you to avoid this serious hazard (and the traffic jam that goes with it). And send the same information to roadway alert signs and a traffic news service.
- Sensor data – traffic flow sensors provide real-time information that is critical in major emergencies. This information not only helps the emergency response team, but also provides input for outgoing alerts that help the public to avoid dangerous or congested areas. In a major emergency like a dangerous chemical spill – or like hurricane Katrina, this information flow can save lives.
What does all of this mean to you if you’re a Public Safety professional? Better service to the public, certainly. But also, more training, more skills, more interconnectivity between agencies, and yes, a bigger work load. Some aspects are actually expected to reduce PSAP costs, but these will be offset somewhat by others that will almost certainly increase costs. That seems to be the logical result of these developments, but we’ll have to see how it all works out. One thing is certain: the Next Generation PSAP will look and operate very differently from today's PSAP.
The results will be pretty incredible for responders and public alike. It’s almost like “Buck Rogers in the 21st Century”. Oh, wait – this is the 21st century! The future is today, and the public and private sectors are working together now to make all this happen. But how are they going to do it? To learn about the NG9-1-1 infrastructure, click here: NG9-1-1 Infrastructure…