911 & FirstNet
Two important upgrades are underway to improve emergency communications – Next Generation 911 (NG911) and the development of a public safety broadband network by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). These two systems, though being built separately, are envisioned to work together to deliver access to public safety that today’s consumers expect.
The nation’s 911 systems have not kept up with today’s digital technological advances. Emergency communications experts agree that 911 systems must transition to Next Generation 911, a digital system that accepts both traditional landline emergency calls and data-based notifications such as video and images.
Most public safety answering points (PSAPs) still use legacy 911 copper landline technology that is outdated and becoming difficult and costly to maintain. Outside of the PSAP, first responder communication is largely based on land mobile radio technology and as of now, data from the public cannot seamlessly move across the public safety communications infrastructure – from the public to the PSAP to first responders.
NG911 will transition to PSAPs from the original analog, copper wire foundation to a digital, data-based system; while FirstNet will transition first responder communication from a voice-only system to a broadband LTE wireless network.
FirstNet and NG911 together ensure that PSAPs receive important and up-to-date data such as medical alerts, multimedia, collision notification information and caller location. Further, being able to transfer this data out to first responders in the field through mobile wireless devices will lead to more efficient emergency response.