9-1-1 vs. NG9-1-1: A Quick Guide for Public Safety Stakeholders
The transition from E9-1-1 to Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) is an overhaul to the legacy systems that currently support first responders – police, fire, emergency medical response and 9-1-1 authorities – across the United States. By redesigning existing analog 9-1-1 systems, the IP-based NG9-1-1 network will allow any telecommunications device with internet connectivity to reach a 9-1-1 call center (also known as Public Safety Answering Points or PSAPs) for emergency services.
Here’s a guide to the basics that public safety stakeholders need to know:
- PSAPs and 9-1-1 call centers typically rely on 40+-year-old systems with tabular addressing databases. PSAPs also use data from a handful of telcos, including ALI (address location information) and MSAG (master street address guide).
- Currently, there are many components in the 9-1-1 dispatch workflow, many of which use GIS data. Examples are call taking, CAD dispatch, auto vehicle location (AVL) and CAD Mapping. In most cases, each system comes from a different solution provider and has proprietary data requirements and other limitations. Even the best-run call centers update their data every 30 days but often only about once per quarter or even just once per year.
- Potential issues with legacy 9-1-1 data include inaccuracy, long updating cycles and high maintenance costs. Importantly, current 9-1-1 data has no relationship to GIS data maintained by the GIS data providers, which is a problem because the next-generation system will rely on GIS data. Lastly, there is a very high expectation by constituents – those who will be using the system to make emergency calls – that emergency responders have accurate information to locate them. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
- As municipalities ready themselves for NG9-1-1, GIS data – rather than telco data – will be used for determining which 9-1-1 center will receive a routed call. That’s why clean, accurate GIS data is required to improve public-safety communication location precision and ensure the data meets the stringent NG9-1-1 requirements.
- For NG9-1-1, PSAPs must expand their reach beyond their geographic borders and understand and interpolate the data of surrounding 9-1-1 authorities. In many areas, streets pass through multiple PSAPs, house numbers may overlap, or odd/even configurations may differ.
- In NG9-1-1 usage, new or corrected GIS data should always be updated within three business days, signaling a major shift from the current irregular and infrequent updating. Since local GIS data determines where PSAP calls are sent, it is strongly recommended that the same data be used in the 9-1-1 dispatch systems.
- Public safety officials are liable for the emergency response system and the upgrade to NG9-1-1. Making the upgrade possible, however, involves providing PSAPs with a complete GIS database that can update automatically to support the NG9-1-1 ESInet. Because many of the 4,900 PSAPs across the nation do not use GIS data in their dispatch systems or maintain GIS data within them, the technological and liability risks to municipalities are substantial. Importantly, since the GIS data is not ready today in most cases, many 9-1-1 call centers cannot go live with NG9-1-1 without a significant investment in GIS.
- What’s more, the NG9-1-1 marketplace is rife with misleading promises. A variety of software vendors claim they can address all GIS “pain points” with a single solution. However, the complexity of the GIS requirements for NG9-1-1 go beyond technical issues. For instance, the move also requires outreach between all stakeholder groups, education on the requirements, planning and coordination between neighboring jurisdictions and more. What’s most often overlooked is the tie between data accuracy and completeness with the addressing process over which each local jurisdiction has authority.
- Also worth noting is that in many cases the addressing maintenance and creation process is not supported by GIS. Many solution vendors focus on the benefits of integrating GIS solutions with the NG9-1-1 ESInet services, rather than remaining platform agnostic and supporting addressing and other PSAP systems. DATAMARK solutions are different – with a focus on the GIS and addressing process – helping any public safety agency share the same data and keeping their data current and accurate across the enterprise is the added focus in addition to the NG9-1-1 systems.
There’s currently no mandated date for full transition to NG9-1-1, but public safety official and all emergency response stakeholders should already be considering their best options for efficient, complete and accurate upgrades to the next-generation emergency response system. The risks of not doing so are not simply a lack of data or erroneous dispatch, but truly can be a matter of life and death.