Convergence into one solution for call taking, mapping, CAD and reporting.
Emergency CallWorks and Enhanced 911
By: Susan Geoghegan
The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) defines Enhanced 911 as a system that routes an emergency call to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for the caller’s location, and automatically displays the caller’s phone number and address. Advancements in communications technology in the past two decades have given rise to wireless and IP-based devices that offer extended capabilities. In 2000, NENA identified the need for NG911 to improve public emergency services to accommodate those capabilities. According to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), an estimated 70 percent of 911 calls are made from mobile phones, prompting the adoption of rules aimed at improving the reliability and location accuracy of wireless 911 services. Efficient and cost-effective transition into a Next Generation 911 system requires the use of common standards to ensure that all parts of the system work together seamlessly.
In 2009, the National E911 Implementation Coordination Office established a plan aimed at identifying several options to address barriers related to standards issues. These include striving for IP-enabled 911 open standards, addressing interoperability moving forward, establishing routing and prioritization protocols, and developing a certification and authentication process to ensure compliancy.
While today’s E911 safety net only receives voice calls, NextGen 911 is an IP-based system that enables transmission of voice, text, images, video, and data to PSAPs, and is aimed at updating the 911 infrastructure for improved public emergency communications services.
Founded in 2006, Emergency CallWorks has pioneered the convergence of NextGen 911 Call Taking, Incident Management (CAD) and GIS systems, and offers the only natively integrated, browser-based, dispatch-centric design in the industry. The i-3 compatible application utilizes the latest telephony technology to seamlessly manage the receipt and dispatch of emergency calls.
“Via separate data circuits, the 911 systems query via the caller’s telephone number, address and/or location information. This is relatively the extent of the data available in the legacy system, stated Craig Dollar, founder and president of Emergency CallWorks. “With Next Generation (NG911), calls are delivered via IP with all the data elements simultaneously, shaving many seconds off of a traditional call. This new IP-based system also now provides inter-connectivity to many other data sources, allowing not only access to other data resources but connection to any portable device, including media such as text messaging and video as applicable.”
The Emergency CallWorks NG911 platform is fully IP-based, Web-enabled, and subscribes to the industry standards for NG911 Network connectivity. Dollar points out that City and County 911 systems must deal with two primary elements in establishing an NG911 system: network conversion to an IP-based routing and management platform, and upgrade of the PSAP call taking equipment to adapt to that evolving network. Dollar said both can be accomplished concurrently or as separate efforts, depending on local goals and policies.
Emergency CallWorks understands offering new technology alone is not enough. They understand that simply installing a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solution does not prepare agencies for NG911. To effectively face the challenges ahead, seamless transitioning is critical to effectively accommodate continued technological advancements. The company’s Total Solution consists of 911 calltaking convergence, advanced architecture, and streamlined implementation and deployment.
The solution includes a single, simplified IP platform for 911, and mapped ALI and dispatch with complete (911 call-to-dispatch) decision support reporting. It features Advanced Call Taking with Mapping Only, i3 NG Now while accommodating legacy 911, and Phase II VoIP support. The advanced architecture requires 40–50 percent less hardware, and results in higher value and lower cost, with no upgrade, conversion or replacement costs. Ease of configuration and implementation make even geo-diverse and complex deployments simple. Four solutions in one with highly flexible workflow assignments, it can be hosted centrally or in the Cloud.
In addition to NENA, several other groups such as APCO and the DOT are working to ensure a smooth migration to NG911. When upgrading PSAPs to NG911, a number of factors need to be considered, such as understanding what the initiative entails and how it will improve emergency response. Knowledge of communications technology, funding, liability, and educating the public are other factors for agencies to consider. Though much of the technology is widely used throughout the world by the private sector, NG911 for public safety cannot afford to fail.
“VoIP and IP transport are certainly not new and are in wide use worldwide for all kinds of daily purposes we all use. Public Safety has historically been slow to adopt new technology because of its mission critical nature. It simply has to work,” Dollar said. “Until such time as the industry becomes completely comfortable with new ways of getting response to an emergency as fast as possible, it seems to lag behind other industries.”
That adoption is now here and moving forward at a good pace. There are many cities and counties now in service with a variety of deployment models delivering an array of services. The challenge that remains is consistency of methods and funding.
Susan Geoghegan is a freelance writer living in Naples, Fla. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.