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Current State of NG9-1-1: The Focus on Next Gen Emergency Communication

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

A reliable emergency response system is a key component of public safety because it connects those in need with services that can help them. The existing 9-1-1 system has served us well for decades, but with aging infrastructure and the rapid innovation of technology, it now faces considerable strain. Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) offers a range of advanced features, including multimedia communication, precise location accuracy, and enhanced interoperability, that meet the evolving needs of communities. In this blog, we'll explore the current state of NG9-1-1 and discuss what is needed to transition to this modern emergency communication system.

Why is NG9-1-1 Needed?

The current Enhanced 9-1-1 system (E911) was designed in the 20th century for handling voice calls and struggles to keep up with the demands of modern communication. E911 components like selective routers and CAMA lines are increasingly difficult to maintain as they age past their expected usage. Also, with the advent of smartphones and digital devices, people now rely on text messages, images, and videos to communicate.

According to the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), more than 80% of emergency calls are made from wireless devices. NG9-1-1 fills this gap by incorporating capabilities designed for 21st century networks. The system allows community members to transmit critical information to emergency services that provides a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of the situation. This real-time data empowers emergency responders to make informed decisions and respond effectively.

Another reason NG9-1-1 is vital for today's emergency response is the system's enhanced location accuracy. It incorporates advanced location technologies to improve the accuracy of caller location information. In comparison, legacy E911 still relies on approximate location from cell towers or, more often, callers verbally providing their location. Unfortunately, this relaying of position can be challenging in high-stress situations or when the caller is unfamiliar with the area. NG9-1-1 can integrate GPS, Wi-Fi, and cellular network data to automatically determine the precise, dispatchable location of the caller.

Overall, NG9-1-1 is designed to evolve alongside communication technologies and infrastructure advancements. The system supports Internet Protocol (IP)-based networks, which are more scalable, flexible, and compatible with emerging technologies. NG9-1-1 lays the foundation for integrating future innovations such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and real-time data analytics, enabling a more efficient emergency response.

The Current State of NG9-1-1

The current state of NG9-1-1 implementation varies across different regions and countries. Some areas have made significant progress in transitioning, while others are still in the early planning and deployment stages.

Early migration in the United States like Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont have already implemented NG9-1-1 statewide. Federal agencies, such as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), have provided grants through programs such as the "911 Grant Program." This funding assists states in upgrading their 9-1-1 systems to NG9-1-1. There has also been a notable push in proposed legislation for a nationwide transition to NG9-1-1, such as with the Federal Communications Commission's (FCCs) recent notice of proposed rulemaking.

In Canada, several provinces and territories have conducted pilot projects and early deployments of NG9-1-1 to test the technology and operational processes. All 9-1-1 carriers were required to “update their networks for NG9-1-1 voice services as of March 1, 2022” per the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).. The existing 9-1-1 system in Canada will be decommissioned by March 30th, 2025, so Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) that have not completed their migration to NG9-1-1 will no longer have the capability to manage 9-1-1 calls.

What is Needed for the NG9-1-1 Transition

Transitioning to Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) requires careful planning, coordination, and investment in multiple areas. It is a multi-tiered process involving technological, operational, and organizational changes with a well-defined roadmap. Here are some key components needed for a successful migration:

1. Infrastructure and Technology: Upgrading the existing emergency communication infrastructure is a fundamental requirement. This includes implementing IP-based networks, integrating NG9-1-1 systems with existing emergency services infrastructure, and ensuring compatibility with emerging technologies.

2. Standardization and Protocols: Developing and adopting industry-wide standards and protocols, like NENA's i3 standard, is essential for seamless communication and interoperability between emergency agencies. Standardization facilitates data exchange, enhances compatibility, and streamlines the transition process.

3. Training and Education: As NG9-1-1 introduces new functionalities and capabilities, it's important to provide comprehensive training.Programs should include interpreting precise location information for dispatchable locations, using additional data about a call and its route to the PSAP, using optional routing suggestions for improved service, accepting or rejecting multimedia data, and using advanced communication monitoring tools effectively.

4. Funding and Collaboration: Transitioning to NG9-1-1 requires financial resources and collaborative efforts between government agencies, emergency services, and telecommunications providers, as well as technology vendors. Adequate funding and these partnerships are necessary to support the infrastructure upgrades, system implementation, ongoing maintenance, and training.

The Future of Emergency Communication As legislation continues to evolve for NG9-1-1, Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) and Emergency Communication Centers (ECCs) must be prepared to make this transition within the decade or sooner. This upgrade is a complex and multi-year process that requires an in-depth integration plan and collaboration among several entities. However, NG9-1-1 is now necessary to address the limitations of the legacy9-1-1 system and adapt to the ever-changing technology landscape.This migration ensures a more efficient, effective, and reliable emergency call handling system that benefits both the public and emergency responders.

Learn more about solutions in Versaterm's ecosystem that can help your agency with the migration to NG9-1-1:

Connect with our experts at booth 439 during NENA 2023 from June 17-22 in Grapevine, Texas.


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