On February 16, 1968, the first-ever 9-1-1 call was placed by Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite, from the Haleyville, AL City Hall, to U.S. Rep. Tom Bevill, at the city's police station. Bevill answered the phone with "Hello". Observers at the phone company central office serving Haleyville actually observed the call pass through the switching gear as the mechanical equipment clunked out "9-1-1". And so, 9-1-1 was born.
Today we are a far cry from mechanical switching or flashing lights outside a police station notifying the patrol officers of an emergency and requiring them to call the station to get information. 9-1-1 has seen an evolution from basic call services routed via analog switches, to digital switching, enhanced 9-1-1 that provides the call takers and dispatchers with location information, and Phase II Wireless services which locate a mobile caller to within 30 meters of their actual location on the planet. Along with this evolution has come a plethora of issues for Emergency call centers including equipment upgrades, software changes, training challenges, funding hurdles, and just “keeping up” in general.
In approximately 98% of locations in the United States and Canada, dialing "911" from any telephone will link the caller to an emergency dispatch center—called a PSAP, or Public Safety Answering Point, by the telecom industry—which can send Law Enforcement, Fire and Emergency Medical responders to the caller's location. In many areas enhanced 911 is available, which automatically gives dispatch the caller's location. The caller’s address and information are displayed to the 9-1-1 call taker immediately upon receipt of the call. This provides emergency responders with the location of the emergency without the person calling for help having to provide it. Along with these advanced 9-1-1 systems, most centers are equipped with some form of Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system which integrates the 9-1-1 call, and caller, information into a computer system. With these CAD systems, dispatchers can manage responding resources, monitor the call as it progresses in the field, and generate reports to each agency served. In addition, advances in radio communications and recording systems make it possible to relay information via either voice or data links to all responders, and to record the entire incident from initial phone call to clearing the scene. Such recordings have become useful for training, review, and if necessary legal proceedings. This integrated approach to taking, dispatching, and managing emergency calls has prompted an even more advanced approach to emergency services, and initiated the beginning of a new era in public safety communications. Just when we thought we’d figured it out, along comes the next, and perhaps most significant, change to how public safety call centers handle emergency calls…..and more. This new era, and the life-saving technology that will serve the public and the PSAP’s, has come to be known as “Next Gen 9-1-1” and it will forever change the way we do business.
So, what is “Next-Gen 9-1-1” and why is it important? After all, we can take calls now, we can find locations, we have caller information…most of the time. What happened to “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it”? In fact, given the monumental advances in technology over the past few decades, and the trend towards an ever more mobile, and networked, society what we have today for a 9-1-1 system and services, will be “broke” in a few short years. The capability to send and receive data in real time, share data between agencies and centers, receive calls from other than traditional phone sources, and to route calls, and resources, based on real time GIS data will soon be more than a luxury, it will become a necessity.
On this section of the website, we take the viewer on a journey into the next generation of public safety. We discuss what some of the proposed components are, how they tie together to provide truly integrated services, what regulatory and funding hurdles we face, and what this bold approach to integrated communications will do for PSAP’s and the agencies and citizens they serve.
NG9-1-1 relies on an Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet) to deliver "calls" to the PSAP. These calls can be in the form of voice, video, text or other multi-media services. The method used for delivering these calls will be the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). A great deal of work is also being done around IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), which incorporates SIP as the protocol by which NG 9-1-1 networks may be designed. There are functional and interface standards developed by NENA which describe general SIP and IMS-based architectures. Additional work is being done by ATIS to allow agencies flexibility in their development of an infrastructure and to ensure interoperability among systems and agencies.
Today's 9-1-1 vs. Next Generation 9-1-1
In today's 9-1-1 environment, the public can primarily make only emergency voice calls and Teletype calls (by deaf or hearing impaired persons). Only minimal data is delivered with these calls, such as Automatic Number Identification (ANI), subscriber name and Automatic Location Identification (ALI), when available.
The vision of a Next Generation 9-1-1 system is to enable the public to make voice, text, or video calls from any communications device via Internet Protocol based networks. The 9-1-1 Center of the future will also be able to receive data from devices such as Advanced Automatic Collision Notification systems, medical alert systems, and a variety of other “sensors.” The infrastructure envisioned by NG9-1-1 will support transfer of emergency calls to other PSAPs—including any accompanying data.
- APCO (Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International)
- NENA (National Emergency Number Association) also: (http://www.nena.org/?NG911_Project)
- IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force)
- TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association)
- Telecommunications equipment and service providers.
- Information technology equipment and service providers.
- Telematics, including Advanced Automatic Collision Notification
- Hazmat (Hazardous materials) security alerts to or from commercial motor carriers or rail carriers
- Integration of Intelligent transportation systems with public safety communications systems
- Security alarm notification system providers
- State and local 9-1-1 agencies
- Public safety and emergency management agencies
- Emergency services industry
- Federal departments, including Transportation, Commerce, Homeland Security, Justice and the Federal Communications Commission
- National organizations with active interests in 9-1-1
- IT research community
- Standards community
For a national overview of NG 9-1-1 please visit:
The 911 Improvement Act of 2008 requires IP-enabled voice service providers to provide 9-1-1 service, allows state and tribal fees to pay for such services, and directs the Federal Communications Commission to gather information to facilitate these services. The Act also provides for grants to public agencies, and requires the E-911 Implementation Coordination Office to develop a national plan for migrating to a national IP-enabled emergency network.