North Carolina is moving toward wider adoption of Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) service, and last month the state officially opened a monitoring center to support the shift.
The state officially launched the Network Monitoring and Assistance Center (NMAC), “which will help support an uninterrupted flow of communication” for emergency call centers that have adopted NG911 technology, according to a press release.
NG911 is an initiative designed to enhance the infrastructure that underpins the 911 system and transition from legacy circuit-switched voice to IP-based networks. One of the goals of NG911 is for callers to be able to transmit photos and video to 911 operators at public safety answering points (PSAPs) via their mobile devices.
However, for that to happen, the PSAP needs to be connected to an IP-based Emergency Services IP Network. The ESInet is a critical element — and the networking backbone — upon which PSAPS and public safety agencies can build services toward NG911.
L. V. “Pokey” Harris, executive director of the North Carolina 911 Board, told StateScoop that the NMAC will serve as “a 24/7, one-stop shop for all of the network’s growing pains,” and it will help troubleshoot network issues and aid dispatchers who might not be familiar with NG911 technology.
North Carolina Aims to Make a Smooth Shift to NG911
Currently, 16 of the state’s 127 PSAPs — including those in Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Gaston, Guilford, Iredell, Martin, Polk, Robeson, Richmond, Scotland, Wake and Wilson counties — have already migrated to the state’s ESInet.
As more 911 centers across the state upgrade their technology to support NG911 services, the NMAC “will play an important role in making sure services run smoothly across the state,” North Carolina CIO Eric Boyette states in the press release.
Technicians monitoring the state’s ESInet can quickly reroute emergency calls to other PSAPs if there is a higher volume of 911 calls, particularly during severe weather or major events.
During Hurricane Dorian in early September, for example, technicians at the NMAC were prepared to help reroute 911 calls from the coast to counties farther inland. As it turned out, this was unnecessary.
“The NMAC can immediately troubleshoot network issues and help behind the scenes to provide seamless 911 coverage, so emergency personnel can focus on helping North Carolina residents get the assistance they need as quickly as possible,” Harris states in the release.
Gerry Means, a senior network engineer for the state’s 911 operations, told StateScoop that the NMAC will collect information on network performance that the state hasn’t had access to in the past, including the ability to compare data between individual PSAPs.
The NMAC will act as a clearinghouse of network data and will be a place “where we can have a lot of other smart people looking at this information and find new ways to use it,” said Means.
Harris told StateScoop the NMAC will handle any networking or equipment issues that 911 dispatchers or managers have: “We wanted our 911 managers and directors to have a comfort level as they move to this next generation technology, or the ESInet, that they would have one phone number to call for any issues.”