From the inception of E9-1-1, information sharing was foundational. Providing telephone company subscriber location information was a first step in using the 9-1-1 system to help responders work more efficiently. We very quickly found ways to share ALI information through other systems such as CAD, Mapping, RMS and for some, Mobile Data in responder vehicles. As we move forward in a data rich society, we need to leverage the capabilities of Next Generation systems to receive and disseminate information to make the Public Safety systems more efficient, effective while keeping responders safe.
9-1-1 as an information source
Conferences and press releases are buzzing with new types of data that will be received as 9-1-1 calls. Even the term “call” is under debate as our industry works to define how we receive data from “any device, anytime, anywhere”. Text to 9-1-1 has had the most scrutiny due to critical needs in the hearing impaired community and high profile incidents where voice calls were not possible. Indeed, a few PSAPs have already elected to receive text messages sent to 9-1-1 within their regions.
However, texting to 9-1-1 is just the forerunner of things to come. While there is discussion on the merits of if and when to accept these types of calls, everyone agrees that data calls are part of the future of 9-1-1. Some data types on the horizon are pictures, video, telematics (car and personal), sensors/devices, subscriber entered data, additional data for address/phone number/person, and smart phone applications. There will be even more as technology progresses.
The reality is that many PSAPs are already accepting some of these data types – just not through 9-1-1 at this point. PSAPs monitor traffic and security cameras; telematics calls are relayed through provider call centers; and subscriber entered data has numerous recent deployments.
We are not creating new emergencies!
One of the concerns often voiced is that these new data types will overload our call takers, making their job even more difficult. If that happens, we’re doing something wrong! We need to implement solutions that make their jobs more efficient, using new data types to provide usable information to assist with the emergency rather than causing a burden. One thing to remember is that we are not creating new emergencies. We are simply receiving more types of data about existing emergencies. Our goal should be to share this information in a way that makes their work more effective with safer responses.
There is certain to be additional data volume, just as we experienced when multiple cellular users began reporting a single emergency. Next Generation 9-1-1 enables much better tools to manage the volume in a data world than we had for voice calls alone.
Sharing the data with those who need it
PSAPs can set policies for how data can move through their systems automatically. If additional data arrives with a voice call (such as a picture) we should be able to flag the call taker that the information is available, using appropriate indicators that give type and PSAP-designated urgency. The data should not just pop up! It should be accessed as needed.
Similarly, data that initiates a call can arrive with indicators showing the type of data so a call taker can be prepared to “answer” the call. Each PSAP can determine what data can be automatically shared, which is to be flagged to the call taker first, and how it will move from 9-1-1 to other consumers.
Of course, data security, integrity for court requests and how it is archived for long term storage are also of primary concern. The good news is that, for data, there are already highly secure encryption/compression algorithms and vendors working to provide solutions that have the reliability required for Public Safety.
The future should be better!
Our goal for the future should be to implement solutions that manage the increased amount of information that will come with NG9-1-1 in a manner that meets each PSAP’s unique needs. At the same time, these solutions must also provide sharing tools for telecommunicators, allowing them to effectively utilize data in directing responders to a safer and more efficient response.
By Paul McLaren, Director of Support Engineering, Safety Services – West