Hark! Do you hear what I hear – collective sounds in the 9-1-1 universe, from sighs of relief and cheers of happiness to groans of frustration and despair? I’m not talking about 9-1-1 callers. These sounds are coming from people in our industry.The FCC has responded to an agreement between APCO/NENA and the Big 4 wireless carriers with its Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the subject of text-to-9-1-1 (see http://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-adopts-next-generation-911-nprm). For those of us who have been watching and waiting to learn what will be done about SMS, and for those of us involved in moving toward equal access for all, this is a monumental decision!
After talking with regulatory gurus, colleagues in PSAPs, and several Deaf friends, I am reminded that our industry already has tremendous experience in rolling out new 9-1-1 technology. They say that history repeats, and it appears that text deployment challenges may be very similar to the challenges faced by PSAPs with wireless 9-1-1 implementation. Processes had to be put in place, equipment and networks had to be upgraded, and the PSAPs and carriers worked together toward the delivery of that call for help.
Today the challenge is delivering and receiving text. Similar to those earlier days with a consensus agreement, PSAPs and carriers have an opportunity to once again do the right thing! This time, however, we should be able to better manage the change and do so in a much faster timeframe.
We are fortunate to have had these experiences, as well as real-world experiences with text! From the delivery of the first text to 9-1-1 in Black Hawk County Iowa to other trials happening across the country, we understand what is required when we talk about PSAP readiness. For Black Hawk, there were 3 components: (1) an IP-based network connection to the PSAP; (2) a method of delivery and display for text messages at the PSAP; and (3) training for call takers.
There is an inevitable passage of time required to implement text to 9-1-1 nationwide. However, with this agreement from the Big 4 and the FCC’s involvement, real progress continues to be made.
And as carriers move forward, it becomes critical for PSAPs to begin taking the necessary steps NOW. Time is of the essence. Our citizens, family and friends are depending on us! If we fail to do so expeditiously, the collective sounds in the universe are going to become much louder!
By Toni Dunne, ENP, External Affairs Manager, Safety Services – West