Versatile NextGen 911 allows for phone, text and video emergency calling

A software vendor has 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 other formats.

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 system.”

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 points.

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.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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