Director Guidelines for the NG 9-1-1 Transition
June 01, 2011
Although many of the details about the transition to next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) are unclear, one thing is certain — NG 9-1-1 will be a major and traumatic change, and managers and directors should be conducting long-range planning for the transition, said Bill Munn in an online presentation.
Next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) offers many working definitions, ranging from the highly technical to the vendor specific. In the presentation, Munn outlined a working definition of NG 9-1-1 from the approach of a manager/director of a public-safety answering point (PSAP) or 9-1-1 district.
Because directors and managers don’t know what the costs will be to implement and operate a NG 9-1-1 system, it’s imperative that they begin planning for it, even if the implementation is still sometime away. PSAPs across the country have already taken several hits on funding, and given the current economic state, a funding gap seems likely. Cost-sharing arrangements with other cities are a possible option to make up for the lack of funding, although with cost sharing often comes staff sharing, which isn’t typically desired by local sheriffs and chiefs, Munn said. The possibility of a national surcharge could also help fund the transition, he said.
Munn is two-time past National Emergency Number Association (NENA) president and was the executive director of the 9-1-1 jurisdiction in Tarrant County, Texas. He currently works as a consultant and advisor.
In his presentation, Munn examined three impact zones — funding, technology and regulatory — that will affect managers, as well as a fourth zone he called “multidisciplinary issues.” His live presentation on Leaps.TV was in such high demand that the server was overloaded and crashed.
With respect to technology, NG 9-1-1 will radically change the delivery of emergency communications. As the types of requests expand to support voice, sound, text, telemetry and signaling sessions, as well as one- and two-way communications, managers must prepare to handle the changes. The technology also will allow for new levels of interconnection among a wide variety of agencies. Relationships need to be created to take advantage of the opportunities. And everyone using the new technology must have a common understanding and training. “The abilities to share communications among agencies of all sizes and jurisdictional levels is expanding, and full interoperability and information sharing is the desired result,” Munn said.
With NG 9-1-1 “there will continue to be a swarm of local, county, state and federal regulations governing the many aspects of the next-generation technologies, some of which are remnants from the original analog phone days,” Munn said. “Each and every manager and director must be aware of them and must work to manage these often conflicting rules, laws, regulations and taxes.” Additionally, managers and directors must be aware of the liability issues that stem from new call-taker responsibilities, new system requirements and the decision of whether to move to NG 9-1-1 and when.
Multidisciplinary considerations are issues that overlap in more than one of the critical zones Munn described. The following are things managers need to consider:
1. Consolidation: There are currently 7,000 to 7,600 PSAPs, but this number may substantially decrease as some small, fully equipped PSAPs with low call volume are no longer considered feasible. “The increased cost of providing the level of 9-1-1 service the public has come to expect has moved the option of sharing costs through combining PSAP functions in many cases from a taboo to a must-do,” Munn said.
2. Transition: The 9-1-1 industry has already dealt with several transitional periods, including the analog to digital switch, as well as changes to accommodate cell phones and later the migration to support VoIP. NG 9-1-1 will be most like the switch from analog to digital, Munn said. It will be dramatic, and a successful transition will involve all stakeholders and uphold the public’s safety as the most important aspect. “Don’t jump until you’re ready,” Munn said.
3.Training: Training sessions should adapt to more frequent, smaller lessons.
4. Public Awareness: Often people focus on one aspect as the heart of NG 9-1-1, but in reality it is multifaceted, Munn said. Also, many callers think the capabilities are available and put themselves in peril using the wrong type of technology in times of emergency.
5. Call Location: With automatic location information (ALI) and master street address guide (MSAG) acting as the cornerstone for call location, there will be location debate for years, such as who owns the MSAG or location information, its accuracy, who should pay for it and who should maintain it, Munn said.