This article is the final piece of a six-part series on Next Generation 911.
Part one | Part two | Part three | Part four | Part five | Part six
Prepping for Next Generation 911 (NG 9-1-1) is something many people working in public safety answering points (PSAPs) are doing on some level.
This initiative set forth by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) to replace 9-1-1 emergency services and make it possible for 9-1-1 communication centers to receive modern mixed media messages including texts, videos and live streams.
While those working in emergency services throughout the United States are aware of this initiative, here are some key points to remember.
In 2000, NENA started laying the groundwork for what would become NG 9-1-1. The goal for this initiative was to get public safety answering points (PSAPs) to adhere to guidelines so that they would have the capability of handling modern mixed media messages.
This initiative reflects the way in which communication is carried out now through smartphones and other communication devices. By creating guidelines and standards for PSAPs to follow regarding the acceptance of different types of messages, emergency services will be aligned with the communication technology used in today’s world.
Text-to-911 is the first step along the path to NG 9-1-1. As of October 2016, less than 15% of PSAPs nationwide have the ability to accept text messages; however, this is one part of the NG 9-1-1 standards that PSAPs are able to implement.
Text-to-911 works by connecting a text message through a text control center (TCC) to the appropriate PSAP for the general area in which the text was sent. Emergency call takers at the PSAP receive the message and respond back via text message.
One of the obstacles to overcome with text messages is that they do not provide accurate location information, so emergency text call takers are required to get more details to send help.
Those who send in a text for help will know if their text was received because a message will be sent back almost immediately. Anyone who sends a text message to emergency services who lives in an area where the messages cannot be received will be sent a message saying that their area does not yet handle text messages and to call 9-1-1.
The NG 9-1-1 initiative was developed to help guide PSAPs as they adopt technology necessary to communicate using modern mixed media. It will also help the 36 million people in the United States who are deaf or hearing impaired and using text-telephone (TTY) services now to communicate with 9-1-1.
TTY services are being phased out and as a result, the deaf and hard of hearing will need a way to communicate with emergency services. Text-to-911 will provide these individuals with a way to reach out for help.
As NENA continues to release standards for PSAPs to follow, it is important for these organizations to update technology and determine how they will handle the new forms of communication.
This article is part four of a six-part series on Next Generation 911
Part one | Part two | Part three | Part four | Part five | Part six
Text-to-911 is as simple as it sounds. It means that cell phone users can send and receive text messages to and from 9-1-1 call centers.
This concept generally calls to mind the image of someone hiding in a closet while texting 9-1-1 to say there is a burglar in the house. The reason this person is texting 9-1-1 instead of calling 9-1-1 highlights the need to communicate with emergency services even when speaking could be a problem.
Text-to-911 works the same way it does when individuals send text messages to and from one another.
From a technological standpoint, when an individual makes a text call to 9-1-1, the text caller sends a text message to emergency services. That text message is then routed by the person's phone provider (Verizon, Sprint, etc.) through a Text Control Center (TCC) to the appropriate public safety answering point (PSAP) in the area. Texts are received by a PSAP within six seconds.
Text-to-911 is a part of the National Emergency Number Association's Next Generation 9-1-1 initiative. This initiative is aimed at preparing PSAPs across the country with the technology capabilities to support the modern mixed media that smartphones and communication devices are capable of offering.
This article is part three of a six-part series on Next Generation 911
Part one | Part two | Part three | Part four | Part five | Part six
To determine what Next Generation 911 (NG 9-1-1) means for each public safety answering point (PSAP) is a bit complicated.
Currently, each PSAP in every community in every state is at a different level of readiness for NG 9-1-1. However, according to standards put into place regarding NG 9-1-1 by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), every dispatcher and call taker is going to be expected to communicate with those in need of 9-1-1 emergency services in more ways than just by voice.
This change is similar to what it was like when technology moved away from rotary phones to push buttons phones to phones with no buttons at all. This is a change that reflects how communication has changed and how that impacts all parts of our lives.
Since the sending of text messages is something many if not most people do now, there is a growing conversation among people wondering if they can send a text to 9-1-1. These people also wonder why they can't send a photo message or a video message or a live stream of a crime happening to 9-1-1 now.
NG 9-1-1 makes it possible for everyone to send these types of messages to 9-1-1, and PSAPs will be able to receive these messages, it's just a matter of when.
As of October 2016, each PSAP in the country is working independently to become ready for NG 9-1-1.
PSAPs that are slightly ahead of the game are ready to accept text calls from the community, but this only accounts for approximately 15% of PSAPs nationwide.
Read part four of the series »
This article is part two of a six-part series on Next Generation 911
Part one | Part two | Part three | Part four | Part five | Part six
In the year 2020, public safety answering points (PSAPs) everywhere will finally get an answer to a burning question: When will Next Generation 911 (NG 9-1-1) services be ready?
2020 is the year when the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) is expected to determine a definitive date for each PSAP in the country to know what to do to be ready for NG 9-1-1 services.
The reason this initiative is such a lengthy undertaking is because NG 9-1-1 requires PSAPs to connect to new networks and install new digital 9-1-1 systems. NENA is also setting guidelines or standards so that PSAPs throughout the country will all follow similar protocols (however, each PSAP will have the ability to determine the manner in which they handle NG 9-1-1 messages).
While all standards and protocols are not yet in place, many PSAPs throughout the country are readying themselves in some fashion, especially in regards to text-to-911.
Text-to-911 is one of the first aspects of NG 9-1-1 that PSAPs are preparing to handle. It involves PSAPs implementing the capability of handling emergency text messages from the public. Later, PSAPs will be able to handle multi-media messages and live video streams from the public.
As of October 2016, the majority of states do report some level of readiness for NG 9-1-1, mostly in terms of handling text-to-911. However, that does not mean that all communities within these states have text-to-911 capabilities. In fact, fewer than 15% of PSAPs across the United States currently are able to accept text calls.
As time goes on, it is expected that more communities will be able to offer text-to-911 services and will then focus on the next phase of NG 9-1-1.
Read part three of this series »
Increasing patrol in areas of high crime is nothing new for most jurisdictions.
According to CAD Manager Mike Dewey of the Greenbelt Police Department, patrolling crime hotspots is a priority. Ensuring other areas of the city are also covered efficiently is something they do as well through the use of their mapping software.
Dewey said he monitors patrol patterns in real time, which helps to identify areas of high saturation. High saturation can indicate areas known for higher crime rates, which leads to an increase of patrol. It can also show where several police cars are following a response to a call for service.
Being able to identify these areas empowers everyone from supervisors to dispatchers to officers in the field to see where each police unit is located.
From there, officers have the ability to move from areas of high saturation to areas of lighter coverage. This maximizes the police department's coverage of the entire city and provides effective coverage for a community.
"Using the software to watch where officers have been recently allows the shift to function as more of a coordinated unit," Dewey said. "Without this ability, it is much more likely that areas in the community would inadvertently get less efficient coverage."
The mapping capabilities of Greenbelt's public safety software also aids in faster response times. For instance, when a call comes in to the dispatch center but has not yet been assigned, officers in the field can see that the call has been queued up and can start driving in the direction where there is a need for service.
In taking this proactive measure, officers are en route faster and arrive on the scene quicker once the address is provided or units are assigned.
"The capabilities of our software system definitely result in faster response times," Dewey said.
When a 9-1-1 hang up call comes into a dispatch center, call takers immediately call back to determine whether help is needed or not. But when dispatchers call back and don't get an answer, they know there could be a problem.
When dispatch personnel with the Greenbelt Police Department received a 9-1-1 hang up call in early 2016, they immediately called back and were connected to a fax machine.
Dispatch searched the number in their computer aided dispatch (CAD) system and was able to come up with an address associated with the number so that an officer could head out to the location. The first officer routed to the location quickly investigated the situation and individual on the scene.
According to CAD Manager Mike Dewey of the Greenbelt Police Department, that officer on the scene immediately identified that the individual at the apartment was possibly undergoing some kind of mental health issue or under the influence of drugs.
While on the scene, the officer accessed premise history through his mobile data terminal in his patrol car and was able to see that a known Phencyclidine (PCP) user lived on the premises.
"PCP is a hallucinogenic drug that has a tendency to cause violent outbursts," Dewey said. "PCP can be an extremely dangerous addition to any call for service, and in this scenario, the lone officer was able to back out of the environment and call for sufficient additional resources."
According to Dewey, without the data sharing between the records and mobile solutions in the police department's public safety software to provide instant prior history information, this situation could have been dangerous for the officer and the individual who made the 9-1-1 call.
Instead, additional units responded to help the officer, which ensured there was no injury to the officers or the individual under the influence of drugs.
"Without enough officers to effectively handle the scene, you risk injury to everyone involved," Dewey said. "Our software helps us prevent these situations from happening."
Discovering what makes someone become a mass murderer is something the science community has yet to identify. Many of these individuals share similar characteristics, but what makes someone actually commit these acts is hard to define.
Some of those characteristics include a feeling of rejection or an abusive past. Others include setting fires while young or hurting animals. Then there are some that always exhibited a lack of empathy or self-centeredness. But not everyone who experiences these traits or experiences becomes a killer.
Triggering events can sometimes be tied to those who enact a mass shooting. A workplace shooting can occur after an individual has been fired; a shooting in the household could be the result of a breakup.
Mass shootings are generally carried out by one individual. Incidences that involve two or more shooters leave even more questions about the reasons behind the shooting to be answered.
In the attack on the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino in late 2015, nobody really knows what caused two individuals to kill 14 others.
What authorities do know is that the two shooters were a married couple. Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik had left their baby in the care of a grandparent on the day of the attack. Farook was a U.S. citizen and Malik was a permanent resident. They met online initially, and eventually met face to face in Saudi Arabia when Farook came out for a visit.
Farook was a graduate of California State University and worked for the Inland Regional Center.
Together, the couple owned a Lexus, had recently attended a baby shower that coworkers had thrown for them, and seemed like an everyday family.
It is thought that Farook became self-radicalized and professed allegiance to the terrorist organization ISIS. It's unclear if the two shared ideological beliefs independently from each other, or if their ideologies grew once they got together.
While it's difficult to know what drove Farook and Malik to kill 14 individuals, it's important to know how they were identified and stopped.
According to Chief Jarrod Burguan of the San Bernardino Police Department, during the investigation that began as soon as law enforcement arrived on the scene, a witness to the shooting suggested that officers consider Farook as a suspect.
This tip was made based on the fact that Farook had been attending the training, but left at some point during and was no longer around. Farook's information was entered into the public safety records management software system utilized by the San Bernardino PD and officers were able to determine his address.
Another tip came in saying that the shooters had gotten away in a black SUV. When this information was made available to the public, a community member called 9-1-1 to report a suspicious SUV. That caller had gone so far as to memorize the license plate number of the SUV.
Investigators with the San Bernardino PD were able to use their public safety software yet again to look up this plate. From there, they determined that the SUV was a rental vehicle and that Farook had rented it.
When Farook and Malik were located not long afterwards, they were killed by police during a shootout.
This tragic incident serves as further evidence that although clues are not always prevalent before an attack, solving crimes and protecting the public is possible with a combination of data, technology and human instinct.
To combat mass shootings and gun violence, law enforcement officers and public safety personnel throughout the country have the opportunity to participate in various training procedures each year.
These trainings focus on terrorism, active shooters, mass shootings and other related topics so that both civilian employees and sworn officers are able to perform safely and effectively during any given situation.
This type of training was especially beneficial for those working for the San Bernardino Police Department when they dealt with a terrorist attack December 2, 2015.
According to Chief Jarrod Burguan, many of his civilian employees and sworn officers had been trained in dealing with an active shooter. This training came from not only planned courses, but from the day to day realities of working in public safety.
"With the crime rate in our city and numerous shootings per week, our officers were well equipped to deal with the events of the terrorist attack," police dispatch supervisor Annie Teall said. "What happened on the day of the attack was a large-scale version of what first responders deal with on a daily basis."
In spite of the training that comes with experience, Teall said that she, along with several others in the department, took part in a tactical dispatcher class to enhance their skillset. This training helped those working in dispatch to become more familiar with field operations during hostage negotiations and SWAT callouts.
"With the tactical dispatcher training, it was easier to anticipate what the field units were going to try to accomplish while on site the day of the terrorist attack," Teall said.
According to the San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan, this on-the-job and additional training helped all those involved in protecting the public during the terrorist attack to perform to the best of their abilities.
"Protecting the public is what we do," Burguan said. "Training is imperative to keeping both the public and officers safe no matter what the circumstances are."
First responders know the area that they serve well, but that doesn't always guarantee a fast response.
With Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) functionality, dispatchers can route first responders to incidences using proximity dispatch capabilities. Proximity dispatch assesses real-time routing factors to get first responders on the scene quickly and safely, regardless of their location.
With AVL technology in Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) software, public safety telecommunicators and first responders are able to know the location of their units via CAD workstations and Mobile Data Terminals (MDT).
For dispatchers, this technology helps to make dynamic unit recommendations based on real-time situational awareness and routing factors. Without AVL, dispatchers can only send first responders to an incident based on either the agency they are assigned to or last recorded location. While this is effective, it's not as efficient.
With AVL, when a call is ready to be dispatched to first responders in the field, the dispatcher has the ability to look at the CAD map and see where all units are located at any given time. Dispatchers can use this information to help determine which units should respond to an incident faster and more safely.
This means that while one first responder may be closer to the location where an incident is occurring, another unit could be able to arrive faster due to routing factors such as traffic speeds or construction.
Using their maps displayed on their MDTs, first responders in the field use AVL to know where other units are located. In a situation where multiple units are responding to an incident, having the ability to see real-time ETAs helps first responders know when back up will arrive.
AVL functionality also helps in the event of an emergency involving a first responder. Should a first responder lose the ability to communicate with dispatch via radio, dispatchers can quickly locate and send assistance to AVL enabled units.
Without this functionality, should something happen to a first responder while out in the field, a search would be carried out using maps and grids. This would take a considerable amount of time and could mean the difference between life and death.
In addition to providing accurate location information, AVL provides users the option to track a unit's speed and direction at any given time.
With AVL technology, built into public safety software, agencies are able to respond as quickly as possible and are better able to protect and serve their communities.
Communication plays a vital role in public safety. When dispatchers are unable to communicate with a deputy on patrol, they know immediately that something is wrong.
According to Sergeant Jonathan Emery of the Greene County Sheriff's Office in Ohio, dispatchers with the county had an incident in late 2015 featuring a deputy who could not communicate.
These dispatchers were unsure of what had happened to him; all they knew was that he was not able to respond to their attempts at communicating with them. Because of this lack of communication, dispatchers needed to send help to the officer, but first they had to find his vehicle.
The fact that the deputy could not communicate using the radio on his shoulder or in the patrol vehicle was evidence enough that something was wrong. Luckily, the deputy was able to activate the emergency button feature of his Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) functionality that was a part of his mobile computer aided dispatching (CAD) software.
This button pinpointed his location so that dispatchers at the Greene County 9-1-1 Center were able to send help immediately.
When this help arrived, they saw that the deputy had been involved in a collision and was injured. The deputy had no memory of how the collision occurred, but was grateful for the ability to communicate nonverbally.
Because the vehicle had gone off the road, it is possible that it would not have been seen easily by passing motorists. This could have made the situation even more dangerous as more time means the injured wait longer for help.
Without the AVL functionality in the deputy's CAD system, this situation could have ended in tragedy.
Increasing Police Presence Using Data
Save Time with Fire Response Plans
Spend More Time in the Field
See all videos »