How NG911 facilitates data sharing during a critical incident response
NG911 technology will improve LE response to critical incidents such as active shooters, natural disasters and other potential mass casualty responses
By Randall D. Larson
Police Executive Research Forum COO Kevin Morison says that NG911 is really about “bringing the country’s 911 system into the 21st century.” Part of that transition involves enabling the 911 system to receive the videos and texts available from the public during a critical incident response, providing “eyes on the ground” in a way not seen before in public safety.
The public safety community has been talking about Next Generation 911 (NG911) for a decade, from the first discussions by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) in 2000, supported by organizations like the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and the Department of Transportation (DOT).
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is also working with key stakeholders in public safety to ensure the transition to NG911 can be performed as seamlessly and cost-effectively as possible.
What will NG911 do for you?
Among the primary objectives of NG911 as they relate to law enforcement are:
- Allow communications integration between mobile and digital devices at the PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) and in the field.
- Increase network reliability and flexibility to allow individual PSAPs to connect seamlessly with each other to coordinate and share information on developing and cross-over events, and make it easier to transfer calls from one 911 center to another.
- Enhance the ability for people to share text messages, photos and videos of crimes in progress from their smartphones to their 911 centers, which could provide more information to first responders helping people in distress.
- Enhancing location accuracy by enabling digital software that telecommunicators can use to zero in on a caller’s location.
- Improve the ability to send callers’ critical information such as on-scene accident information and special needs data from the 911 centers to emergency responders.
- Share data from systems like GIS mapping and local databases between 911 call-takers and responders in the field.
- Provide greater information sharing between disparate systems or PSAPs during periods of high call volume or when overloaded by one or more critical major incidents.
How will we get there from here?
A 2017 Report by the Police Executive Research Forum titled The Revolution in Emergency Communications notes that “In recent years, different states and jurisdictions have adopted the new technology at different rates. Twenty states currently have a statewide NG911 plan in place…other states, however, have yet to fully develop their NG911 plans. For individual public safety agencies, the ability to take advantage of NG911 capabilities is determined, in large measure, by the state government’s level of planning and implementation. It is important for police leaders to know where their state, regional, and individual jurisdictions stand with regard to building their IP-based communications infrastructure and becoming NG911-ready.”
NG911 Roadmap: Pathways Toward Nationwide Interconnection of 911 Services released by 911.gov in June 2019, identifies what the 911 community must do to achieve this national goal.
The Roadmap is divided into five primary goals of technical and non-technical activities that must be completed at the national level to achieve a nationwide, fully integrated NG911 system of systems:
- Business governance goals: Identify strategies and resources to address policy, regulatory, governance and funding issues or obstacles faced by jurisdictions.
- Technical goals: Stimulate adoption and enable implementation of NG911 technology by promulgating NG911 open standards and establishing means by which emerging technologies can be validated for compliance and security.
- Data goals: Support the enhancement of 911 services by establishing technical and operational data solutions that support cross-jurisdictional and nationwide situational awareness, information sharing, and predictive data analysis.
- Operational goals: Distinguish, enhance and promote operating procedures, performance, valuation and professional development strategies that support the complete and streamlined implementation of NG911 capabilities.
- Cross-cutting goals: Facilitate education and knowledge transfer on an ongoing basis.
In a more recent report from April 2020, research group Frost & Sullivan noted that “The next 12 months will be a critical time period for state and local 911 administrators to identify and secure the appropriate partners for their NG911 implementations. The emergence of COVID-19, in particular, has elevated pressure on states and counties that have not yet initiated NG911 deployments to accelerate roll-outs.”
The pandemic itself may provide an opportunity to test or implement your NG911 system, as the same capabilities for coordination, information and integration the system has can be utilized by telecommunicators and field units alike to maintain responder safety, coordination and information sharing when faced with a COVID-19 related medical emergency or suspect.
About the author
Randall D. Larson retired after 20 years in public safety communications, serving as a shift supervisor, trainer and field communications supervisor for the San Jose (Calif.) Fire Department. Larson was also the editor of 9-1-1 Magazine from 1995 to 2009 and its online version from 2009 to 2018. He currently resides among the northern California Redwoods writing in a number of fields of interest.