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True stories from dispatchers, law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel who use New World public safety software to help them save lives, protect communities and increase efficiency


Important Facts to Remember About Next Generation 911

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.

A Brief History of Next Generation 911

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

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.

Why Do We Need This?

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.

What Happens Next

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.




Why Do We Need Text-to-911?

This article is part five of a six-part series on Next Generation 911.
Part one | Part two | Part three | Part four | Part five | Part six

There are numerous reasons why the United States needs text-to-911 capabilities.

To start with, text telephone (TTY) services are being phased out. This is the service that helps the deaf and hard of hearing communicate now via phone to 9-1-1 emergency services. There are 36 million people in the country that use TTY services now, and they are going to need a new way to talk to 9-1-1. Text-to-911 is what they will use.

Video: CAD Users Experience Text-to-911


Another reason for text-to-911 is because there are times when help is needed, but making a phone call to 9-1-1 is not possible. For instance, if an individual feels threatened and thinks being overheard calling 9-1-1 would be dangerous, that person could send a text for help.

Text-to-911 isn’t just for when you can’t call, but for when you don’t feel comfortable calling.

Imagine riding with a drunk driver in a vehicle. Calling 9-1-1 could pose a risk for the individual who may not want to let the driver know that he or she is making a call for help. However, being able to reach out for help in some fashion helps keep people safe.

Domestic abuse situations highlight another scenario in which the person involved might be uncomfortable being overheard or might even endanger themselves if overheard talking to a 9-1-1 call taker.

Having text as an option makes that hesitancy go away and ensures the correct response will be dispatched to the situation.




The Facts About Text-to-911

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.

Video: CAD Users Experience Text-to-911


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.




What Does Next Generation 911 Mean for my PSAP?

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.

Video: CAD Users Experience Text-to-911


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 »


When Will Next Generation 911 Be Ready?

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.

Video: CAD Users Experience Text-to-911


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 »


What to Expect with Next Generation 911

This is part 1 of a 6-part series on Next Generation 911.
Part one | Part two | Part three | Part four | Part five | Part six

The manner by which the world communicates via phone has changed.

Recognizing this change, the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) developed Next Generation 911 (NG 9-1-1).

NG 9-1-1 is an initiative aimed at updating 9-1-1 emergency services to accommodate a growing wireless society and provide individuals with additional ways to reach out for emergency services. It allows for the public to communicate with 9-1-1 emergency services the same way most people communicate with each other today using text and multi-media messages on mobile phones.

In 2000, NENA first began to address the shift in how individuals communicate via phone and the need for the public to be able to talk to 9-1-1 emergency services in different ways. By 2003, NENA started to create standards for what NG 9-1-1 really meant.

The goal with NENA's initiative was to provide guidelines for public safety answering points (PSAPs), which would define requirements for PSAPs to follow. However, as of 2016, these requirements have not been fully defined.

Many PSAPs are preparing for NG 9-1-1 requirements by updating technology to enable the acceptance of voice, video, text and data sent over IP networks from various communication devices.

Communicating with 9-1-1 services using NG 9-1-1 technology will work the same way communication via smartphones does now for personal usage. However, instead of sending messages between friends, family, coworkers and the like, messages will be exchanged between the general public and emergency text call takers.

The goal of this technology is to make sure individuals can communicate with 9-1-1 services in a variety of ways. It is the goal of NENA to make sure public safety agencies have guidelines and standards to follow when adaptation of this technology becomes mandatory.

Read part two of this series »


Difference in Dispatching Leads to Faster, Smarter Responses

There are a few ways to dispatch emergency services when a call for service comes in to a call center.

Without computer aided dispatch (CAD) software, dispatchers send transmissions via radio to first responders. These first responders use pen and paper to record the information or commit the details to memory. To get to the scene, they might use their own mobile phone’s routing features, or rely on their own knowledge of the area.

Then there are dispatchers who utilize CAD software and send a response, but are unaware of the unit’s estimated time of arrival (ETA). Once the unit is dispatched to a call for service, dispatchers calculate the ETA based on the unit’s location, speed and route.

What dispatchers and law enforcement officers have learned is that a much more efficient way to get to the scene is through proximity dispatching. With this method, dispatchers see where police, fire and EMS units are on a digital map in CAD software in real-time along with their continuously adjusting ETAs.

The continuously updated ETAs that proximity dispatching relies on are provided through the use of automatic vehicle location (AVL) functionality. This provides the most accurate information possible, so that dispatchers and first responders can see where all units are by looking at their digital maps either in the CAD mapping system or mobile data terminals in patrol cars, fire engines, or other emergency vehicles. Using this information, dispatchers determine which unit should be dispatched to ensure the quickest response.

AVL works by having each emergency vehicle equipped with global positioning system (GPS) functionality. By pre-programming GPS data into an agency’s mobile server, the mobile software located in police, fire and EMS vehicles communicates seamlessly back and forth to dispatch.

This same signal is sent to other units within the agency, all of which are able to view this information using the maps on their mobile devices.

AVL technology continuously sends latitude and longitude coordinates back to the CAD system so that dispatchers always know the location of a unit.


Looking Back at The Call

From devastating fires to terrorist attacks to fugitives on the run, the content from The Call shows the dedication of public safety personnel throughout the United States.

These stories feature public safety officials from Snohomish County, Washington, Kankakee County, Illinois, and Greenbelt, Maryland. While each location is vastly different from the next, the common thread of serving the public is what is highlighted in each piece.

We are looking forward to sharing more public safety content in 2017!


Bogus 9-1-1 Call Leads to Change in Law

Heinous crimes often times result in changes to the law. In 2010, one of those crimes happened in Kankakee County, Illinois.

A call came in to 9-1-1 regarding five bodies in a trailer. The dispatcher who took the call sent two deputies to the scene. The deputies rode together and traveled at 102 mph down rural roads to the alleged trailer. But they never made it.

The vehicle the deputies were traveling in went off the road when its tire blew out and rolled five times. Deputy David Stukenborg's spine was shattered in the accident and rendered him paralyzed from the chest down. The other officer suffered non-life threatening injuries.

According to Trent Bukowski, IT manager for the Kankakee County Sheriff's Office, the woman who made the call did so to anger her ex-boyfriend. She knew there were no bodies in the trailer and that no crime had been committed, but wanted her ex-boyfriend to get into trouble.

When the accident involving the deputies was discovered along with the fact that the call was bogus, authorities reacted quickly to discover who made the call.

Unfortunately, the call was placed by a disposable cell phone and was not trackable by traditional methods. However, there was one location where that number was previously tracked: The corrections system used by the Kankakee County Sheriff's Office.

Bukowski said the number from the disposable cell phone was entered into the corrections system when the woman who made the call visited her ex-boyfriend in the county jail. This visit took place months before when the two individuals were still a couple.

"Since our records and corrections systems share data automatically, it makes it easier for us in multiple ways," Bukowski said. "If we hadn't entered that number into the system when this woman visited, we might not have ever found out who made that call."

After the deputy was paralyzed responding to the prank call, the Illinois General Assembly put a new law into effect Jan. 1, 2011. The new law states that a person found guilty of making a false 9-1-1 call will be charged with a Class 4 felony. This crime is punishable by one to three years in prison and carries a $25,000 fine.

This is a stark contrast to the previous law, which classified the same crime as a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and one year in jail. The woman who made the prank call that paralyzed the officer was fined and served 364 days in the county jail.


Patrolling Greenbelt Using Data

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.

Video: Increasing Efficiency with the Greenbelt Police Department