NextGen 911 shows versatility
Allows for phone, text and video emergency calls
- By Alice Lipowicz
- Aug 11, 2009
A software vendor today demonstrated a proposed public safety Next
Generation 911 emergency call system as part of a project led by the Transportation Department. Next Generation 911 systems are in a
development phase and will be operated under Internet Protocols so that
emergency messages can be relayed by telephone, text message, video and
DOT started a proof-of-concept phase of testing in June.
InterAct Public Safety Systems, a vendor of public safety
software, is one of the first vendors to integrate its systems with the
proposed Next Generation 911 architecture and to successfully process a
call through the system — from caller to Computer-Aided Dispatch to
Geographic Information System -- by using only IP connections, the
company said today.
Emergency 911 calls are answered by Public Safety Answering
Points that use information technology equipment to identify
the location of the caller. The nation’s thousands of answering points
have been upgrading to so-called Enhanced 911 systems for several years
by adding cell phone location capabilities. Under Next Generation 911,
the call systems will be IP-based.
“[The] 911 centers have a dire need for Next Generation
capabilities,” said Brian Fontes, chief executive of the National
Emergency Numbers Association, said in the news release.
“Regardless of whether a caller dials 911 from a wired, voice-over-IP
or wireless phone, the location information should be instantly
transmitted to the correct public safety answering point. Next
Generation 911 makes this possible and enables the PSAP to receive and
react to multimedia messages that cannot be handled by the current
InterAct demonstrated its integration at a conference sponsored
by the National
Emergency Numbers Association. The company routed wireless 911 calls into DOT's
public safety test system, which delivered the data to dispatchers with
automated location information.
In June, DOT began testing of the proof-of-concept
for the Next Generation 911 systems at three labs and five answering
The three participating laboratories are housed at Booz Allen
Hamilton, Texas A&M University and Columbia University. The five
answering points are: City of Rochester – Emergency Communications Department, Rochester,
N.Y.; King County E-911 System, Seattle, Wash.; Metropolitan Emergency
Services Board – Ramsey County Emergency Communications Center, St. Paul,
Minn.; State of Montana – Public Safety Services Bureau, Helena, Mont.;
State of Indiana – Office of State Treasurer, Indiana Wireless 911 Board.
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission proposed rules to allow 911 systems to process calls from voice-over-IP phones.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.