Technology changes at an increasingly frenetic pace, and the nation’s emergency call centers have had a hard time keeping up. The Next-Generation 911 project aims to change that.
The project will replace today’s circuit-switched 911 networks with an emergency services IP network over a fiber-optic backbone, enabling it to handle far greater volumes of data.
“Next-Generation 911 is all about moving to a modern multimedia environment,” says Brandon Abley, director of technical issues at the National Emergency Number Association. “It will deliver the kind of rich communications you get with WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or iMessage.”
For the past few years, dispatch centers have offered citizens the ability to send emergency texts, but that is based on aging SMS technology. NG911 will allow for real-time text conversations with 911 personnel, as well as the ability to share video with call center operators.
Another big change is geospatial routing. Today, landline calls to 911 are routed to the public safety answering point closest to a caller, based on a phone’s corresponding street address. But emergency calls made from cellphones rely on cell tower location, which often results in calls being misrouted to the wrong call center. Instead of cell towers, geospatial routing will use a phone’s location services to connect to the correct 911 operators.
“If you have a serious injury or someone is in immediate danger, that 10- or 15-second delay in routing can be the difference between a good outcome and a bad one,” Abley says.
Today, only a handful of states have fully implemented NG911, but dozens more have programs in progress.
For more on how 911 technology is evolving, check out, “Upgraded 911 Call Centers Boost Interoperability and Unity.”