PSAPS are facing increasing urgency to evaluate their feasibility and readiness to migrate to Next Generation 911 (NG911) services. The pressure is originating from a variety of sources, to include statewide initiatives to migrate to NG911, or from outside vendors notifying PSAPs that legacy 911 call handling equipment or services now in place will no longer be supported after a future date. Once the decision is made to move forward with migrating to NG911 services, it is important to complete an assessment of the areas impacted by NG911 migration. These areas include:
NENA i3 Compatible Call Handling Equipment (CHE)- Equipment at the PSAP must be evaluated to see if it can receive i3 SIP 911 calls including the ability to perform HTTP-Enabled Location Delivery (HELD) and parse the response to present location information at the call taker workstation. If the current equipment is not i3 SIP compatible, it will need to be upgraded or replaced.
Optimally, the CHE equipment should be upgraded prior to, or in conjunction with, deployment of the NG911 services ESInet to avoid the expense of a legacy PSAP gateway (LPG). The LPG is designed to make i3 NG911 call delivery “backwards” compatible to CHE that is not compliant with the NENA i3 functional interface standard.
Environmental & Space- NG911 operates on hardware designed to process data communications. This hardware is more sophisticated and sensitive than traditional telephone company service terminations. Therefore, it is important that the PSAP understands all environmental and space requirements before embarking on NG911 system deployment. This is applicable for both the data networking infrastructure for the ESInet as well as call handling hardware.
The PSAP needs to ensure there is adequate space for IT racks for the equipment and backboard space for circuit terminations. There needs to be adequate electrical power and back-up generator power. Air conditioning is also critical to support the electronics associated with NG911.
NG911 technicians should have 24/7 access to the equipment rooms. Many PSAPs have a designated 911 or IT person but in their absence, there should be a mechanism for qualified NG911 technical support people to access the NG911 equipment area at any time.
Geographic Information System (GIS) Data Readiness- Since NG911 systems rely on more sophisticated GIS data, the PSAPs need to ensure their local GIS departments are integrated into the NG911 deployment. Often, PSAPs administered the Master Street Address Guide (MSAG) which supported the legacy 911 systems, and the GIS department was not part of the 911 call routing equation, and primarily supported Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) and mapping services for the PSAP.
NG911 changes that equation, as the PSAP or 911 administrative entity will have to negotiate GIS provisioning boundaries with neighboring jurisdictions as part of GIS readiness evaluation. This will avoid inter-jurisdictional gaps and overlaps associated with the GIS data.
While MSAGs typically cover only addressed areas, GIS will include not only addressed areas but other data to include lakes, rivers, and forests. Coastal communities should allow for offshore areas to cover anyone who may be on the water but still are able to place a 911 call from a wireless device.
Training Logistics- Agencies should anticipate the need to train personnel on some of the nuances associated with NG911 including GIS data mapping, and transferring calls to other agencies. The use of video is still probably several years out, which brings a sense of relief to many agencies. The training needs to be completed as close as possible to the system go live. It is especially important if new a vendor installs i3 compliant CHE and there is limited call taker familiarity with the new system. Also, because NG911 services are offered by competitive providers, there may be changes to the current repair and trouble reporting processes.
Compatibility with Downstream Systems- The systems downstream from the 911 CHE, like CAD and mapping, will need to be tested before the NG911 system can go live. These downstream systems rely on the current legacy ALI feed. Testing will assure the CHE can continue presenting the requisite data fields required to automatically populate caller location data in CAD incident screens and map location information at the workstation.
Interoperability with Other 911 Systems- NG911 services are offered as competitive telecommunication services, unlike the legacy telecommunications provider which historically has been the only vendor of 911 services in its franchise area. This means multiple 911 providers could operate within an area where there are several neighboring independent 911 administrative entities. This has impact on system interoperability amongst neighboring jurisdictions who may have different NG911 providers. It is important for the PSAP to clearly understand the technical interfaces and interoperability features of systems from different providers which may be implemented in neighboring jurisdictions.
Making the transition to NG911 is not a project that everyone might have to do. Eventually all PSAPs throughout the United States will be required to migrate to NG911 as telephone vendors stop supporting the legacy 911 equipment and services. The process from the initial needs assessment to the procurement and implementation of NG911 core services and products can easily take one to three years depending on the size of the agency or agencies involved. It is crucial to begin these conversations now.
Winbourne Consulting has the experience and expertise necessary to assist your agency with making this transition.