Next Generation 911 (NG 9-1-1) is a hot topic for public safety agencies across the United States.
This initiative, which was set forth by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), is aimed at updating 9-1-1 services to accommodate a growing wireless society. It consists of numerous stages, all of which should be completed by 2020.
Until that time, public safety answering points (PSAPs) across the country will be preparing to adhere to guidelines set forth by NENA so they will have the ability to handle modern, mixed media messages from the public.
Text-to-911 is one of the first steps many PSAPs are undertaking along the NG 9-1-1 journey. As TTY (text telephone) services are phased out, the deaf and hearing impaired community will need a way to communicate with emergency services. Text-to-911 will replace TTY services, so it is imperative all PSAPs throughout the country are able to receive, handle and respond to these messages.
As of late 2016, less than 15 percent of PSAPs in the U.S. have the ability to accept text messages.
However, many PSAPs throughout the country are readying themselves for NG 9-1-1 and its various phases so they are prepared when all guidelines are established.
Once all guidelines are in place, PSAPs will have the direction to receive voice, text and data sent over IP networks from various communication devices.
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.
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