What is NG911 (and Why Should You Care)?
Since its debut in 1968, there’s no question that the 911 system has been a great success. But it has not kept up with the rapidly increasing number and type of communication devices that Americans now depend on. And sometimes its age can prove disastrous: When Hurricane Katrina struck, some 38 emergency call centers were unable to function during the storm and in its immediate aftermath.
The vast majority of the nation’s call centers, or PSAPs, use analog equipment that cannot receive text messages, videos or photos or certain calls from computers. Even worse, the location of calls made on a mobile device can be difficult for today’s PSAPs to accurately pinpoint. And when calls overwhelm a call center — as during a natural disaster or even a vehicle crash — they can’t be transferred between centers or rerouted, which can leave citizens without needed aid.
Upgrading to Next Generation 911 (NG911) transforms an outdated public safety system into a digital network that is faster, more efficient, more cost-effective and safer for the public and for law enforcement.
As part of the public safety communication ecosystem, it is important that NG911 work seamlessly with the envisioned national public safety wireless broadband network, which will increase the amount of data available to officers and deputies in the field.
It can provide law enforcement with more and better information about perpetrators, crime scenes and accidents even before officers or deputies arrive on-scene; it makes it easier for the public to communicate with call centers; and it keeps a PSAP from being overwhelmed with calls.
Making the transition to NG911 isn’t an “if” — it’s a “when.” Unfortunately, we in law enforcement, haven’t been as quick to act on NG911 as we should have been. But police chiefs, sheriffs and their teams clearly have a very important place at the NG911 table; after all, most PSAPs are run by a police or sheriff’s department.
Don’t be surprised if you start hearing more about NG911 in the coming weeks and months: Law enforcement agencies around the United States are already improving their systems and equipment and training their telecommunicators on the new technology. Many more are exploring the possibility of making the transition. Make no mistake: NG911 is not 20 years away. It’s here and now – and it reflects the way the citizens you serve are already communicating with each other.
There’s still work to be done to decide on standards for software and hardware and how systems will work together. That’s why it’s crucial that law enforcement joins — and does its part to lead — the NG911 conversation now.