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August 2, 2018

Fifty years after 9-1-1 was established as the nation’s single, nationwide emergency number, the basic technology linking Americans to emergency response call centers remains almost unchanged across the country.

Most Public Safety Access Points (PSAPs), the first-response call centers that handle 9-1-1 calls are still reliant on data bases that link landline phone numbers to fixed addresses. But in a world where four out of five emergency calls originate from mobile phones, that’s no longer good enough.

The fact is, while your favorite online pizza outlet can automatically pinpoint your location and connect you to its nearest store, legacy 9-1-1 lacks that level of accuracy.

Instead, legacy 9-1-1 systems use network data to assign an approximate location and callers themselves must explain where to find them. Calls routed to the wrong PSAP, must be transferred, after which the caller must again provide a location. This take time.

Next-Generation 9-1-1 changes that, enabling better geographic location accuracy and more rapid, accurate call routing.

No state is further down the NG9-1-1 route than Massachusetts, which launched a statewide effort nearly four years ago to retire the legacy 9-1-1 systems at more than 250 primary PSAPs statewide. Leveraging best-in-class technology and the universally accepted National Emergency Number Association i3 standard for NG9-1-1. Today, it is the largest NENA i3-compliant emergency network in the nation.

To launch Massachusetts’ NG9-1-1 system, the state partnered with General Dynamics Information Technology to develop a geospatial routing system that instantaneously routes calls based on the caller’s validated location and routing policies based on that given location and the type of call (whether it originated as a landline, mobile or VOIP), essential since location data varies by call type.

Rapid, accurate routing is critical, because in emergency response, seconds matter. With lives often on the line, misrouting call to the wrong correct PSAP can have tragic consequences. Likewise, making callers repeat themselves ramps up stress and delays emergency response. Legacy 9-1-1 systems typically misroute between 10 percent and 20 percent of calls; NG9-1-1 aims to get that number under 5 percent, and eventually close to zero.

Getting there is possible because Massachusetts took the long view in building out its NG9-1-1 strategy. By pursuing a single, statewide strategy and adopting the national NENA i3 standard, state 9-1-1 authorities ensured long-term system compatibility, as well as a common glide path for future upgrades.

NG9-1-1 is also designed for resilience: Two IP network connections come into each PSAP, connecting two geographically diverse data centers that house all the system’s applications to dual-core Wide Area Networks at each location. This parallel approach ensures there are no single points of failure in any layer of the system, and it’s built on proven technology long used by all the major network carriers.

Bringing America’s emergency response networks into the modern communications era is complicated. Funding, timing, technology and policy each present their own variables and challenges. But 9-1-1 agencies do not have to reinvent the wheel. By leveraging national standards and proven, experienced partners, 9-1-1 agencies can replace aging legacy systems with state-of-the-art NG9-1-1 solutions, pointing the way to more rapid and resilient emergency response.

Learn more about our True NG9-1-1 capabilities.