What is NG9-1-1 and Why is it Important?

Estimated reading time: 14 minute(s)

By: Paul Guest

“911…What’s your Emergency?”
“I’ve been in an auto accident. My face is cut and my leg hurts really badly.”

“Stay on the line, please. I show your location on South Broadway between South Park and the Northridge Recreation Center. Is that correct?”
“Yes. Please hurry. I’m trapped here.”

“I’m sending an ambulance. Please try to remain calm. I see that you are alone and have no passengers, correct?”

“OK. Are you calling from your phone, is this Mary Jones?

“You live at 955 Main Street. Is that correct?”

“We are going to access your medical records on file with Dr. Simmons, who I see as your primary care doctor. Is that alright?”
“Yes. My head is throbbing…”

“Try to stay still and calm. I see in your medical files that you are allergic to penicillin. Is that correct.”
“Uh, yes, that’s right.”

“Ok, if you can do it comfortably, I’d like you to take a photo of your injuries. But only if you can do it safely and without causing any further harm to yourself.”
“I’m taking the photos now…There, I’ve sent them to you.”

“That’s great, Ms. Jones. I’m sending the photos and your medical data to the EMTs. They’ll be there shortly.”
“Thank you. I think I hear the ambulance now.”

This conversation between a 9-1-1 caller and the 9-1-1 call taker was entirely fictitious. It imagines a state of the art in 9-1-1 call capabilities that do not quite exist yet. The technology is available, but as of today, not enough of it has been adopted into the emergency services infrastructure. The legacy analog 9-1-1 systems still widely in use are not compatible with much of the newer technology.

One pressing public safety issue is to get the U.S. emergency communication system if not on pace, then at least in the same generation with the vast advancements that have taken place in consumer (i.e., smartphones) and business (i.e., IP-based systems) technologies. New wireless and internet-based communications devices and technology exist that deliver capabilities (e.g., text and video messaging/live streaming) that will dramatically enhance and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of emergency services in the future. The technology-enabled leap will be more significant for emergency services than any in history, and it will save countless lives.

But to achieve the benefits of new technology, public safety answering points (PSAPs)–or 9-1-1 centers–across the United States need to implement Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1).

All About NG9-1-1

NG9-1-1 refers to a standards-based, all-IP emergency communications infrastructure. Its goal is to provide both voice and multimedia (i.e., supplemental) communications between the 9-1-1 center and the 9-1-1 caller in the field. With NG9-1-1, those rapid communications and additional information can be quickly passed to responders heading to the scene and provide valuable context that can save time once they arrive at the scene.

The goal is for citizens in need of assistance to be able to:

  • transmit photos, videos, and other broadband data/applications (both existing and future) in addition to voice to 9-1-1 professionals
  • stream video from an emergency incident, e.g., photos of damage at the scene, a fleeing subject, medical information, etc.
  • arm field responders with the real-time actionable knowledge they need to arrive on the scene fully prepared

The implementation of NG9-1-1 is the responsibility of individual states, counties, municipalities and regional authorities and are funded and managed differently according to unique local circumstances and regulations. Assisting and coordinating those efforts is a coalition of business, non-profit, and federal government entities.

What NG9-1-1 Will Do

NG9-1-1 networks are replacing the existing narrowband, circuit switch 9-1-1 networks, which can carry only voice and minimal data. Those limitations cause difficulties in supporting text messages during life-threatening emergencies, images, and video—support for American Sign Language users, for example.

So, NG9-1-1 consists of a system of hardware, software, and associated data. NG9-1-1 also includes operational policies that are designed to:

  • standardize the interfaces between call and message services
  • handle all types of emergency calls to include non‐voice (i.e., multimedia) messages
  • collect and integrate additional data for use in future call routing and handling
  • reliably route and deliver the calls/messages to where they need to go
  • support and coordinate incident management through integrated data and communications management
  • provide emergency communications in a secure environment

The Path Forward to NG9-1-1

The path to full NG9-1-1 adoption needs to be on a faster track. Prolonging the deployment will result in continued patchwork systems, risks of incompatibility as communications trends continue to advance, and missed opportunities for improved emergency response and inter-agency cooperation.

Please visit the following links to learn more about NG9-1-1.






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