MCP Insights

Assessing Progress Towards Next Generation 911 is No Easy Task

Posted on April 10, 2020 by Chad Brothers

In 2015, while beginning work on the Next Generation 911 (NG911) Nationwide Cost Study for the National 911 Program, it became apparent that the first step was to determine the extent of implementations across the country. Only then could the team define what would be needed to fully implement NG911, from coast to coast, and the ultimate cost.

In the ensuing years, it became clear that public-safety agencies had very divergent understandings of what a full NG911 implementation entailed. Some agencies equated implementation of shared call-handling systems with NG911, while others thought that deployment of an interim text-to-911 solution did the trick.

Clearly, something had to be done to get everyone on the same page. So, a “maturity matrix” was created for the cost study and provided to various stakeholders within the 911 community for feedback and buy-in. Later, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Task Force on Optimal PSAP Architecture (TFOPA) adopted the maturity matrix, with a few minor modifications, to provide a means by which agencies could measure where they stood in relation to the end state of NG911 implementation. Fast forward a couple of years and the SAFECOM self-assessment tool hits the streets. This tool places a public-safety agency within one of the six maturity stages identified for each of the eight essential elements of NG911 implementation.

Going Beyond Online Assessment Tools

With a convenient online assessment tool, surely everyone is now crystal clear about where they stand in terms of NG911 readiness and maturity … right? That’s the theory, but in reality it’s a bit more complicated. Fully assessing where an agency is on the implementation continuum requires an introspective look into the following key factors:

  • Governance
  • Call routing and caller location
  • Geographic information system data
  • Next Generation Core Services—the functional elements that enable 911 centers to process calls in a NG911 environment
  • Emergency Services IP Networks—which transport emergency calls to 911 centers in a NG911 environment
  • NG911-capable call-handling and computer-aided dispatch systems and applications
  • Physical security and cybersecurity
  • Operations

It’s an extensive list. Most 911 entities want to know where they stand, but even with self-assessment tools at their fingertips, many agencies need help in getting the job done—this is especially true of smaller agencies that might be lacking in expertise and resources. They might need help in being objective. They might not possess the requisite technology and/or policy knowledge needed to navigate all of the TFOPA-defined essential elements or the factors identified above. Being an expert on all of them is a bit of a stretch for even the most-technical experts in our community. Keep in mind that the TFOPA model was refined by no less than 30 task force members, and there was a good reason for that—each member brought specific subject-matter expertise to a portion of the model. No one knows it all.  

One approach to help 911 entities discern and understand where their centers stand regarding all of the factors above and more is the Model for Advancing Public SafetySM, or MAPSSM, which is a proprietary assessment model developed by Mission Critical Partners. The key element of the MAPS offering is a color-coded blueprint (pictured below) that depicts that status of each factor that was assessed. The blueprint diagram enables officials to determine, at a glance, where efforts and resources need to be placed. A comprehensive assessment report is delivered along with the blueprint.

MAPS_NG911_Readiness_AssessmentMoreover, 911 officials have demanding full-time jobs focused on ensuring that lifesaving services are provisioned to their public when they are needed—without fail. It’s difficult to juggle familiarizing oneself with all of the moving parts of the NG11 migration—much less assessing where the agency stands in relation to them—while also managing the day-to-day crises that crop up in their communities.

This is especially useful for 911 officials who have demanding full-time jobs focused on ensuring that lifesaving services are provisioned to their public when they are needed—without fail. It’s difficult to juggle familiarizing oneself with all of the moving parts of the NG11 migration—much less assessing where the agency stands in relation to them—while also managing the day-to-day crises that crop up in their communities.

MCP subject-matter experts were intimately involved in developing the maturity matrix and the nationwide cost study. As such, we have the experience needed to help you identify your needs and achieve your objectives, while helping you avoid spending time and money where it isn't necessary. We would welcome the opportunity to support your agency as it migrates toward NG911—please reach out.

Chad Brothers is a senior technology specialist at Mission Critical Partners. He can be reached at chadbrothers@missioncriticalpartners.com. Also contributing to this article was Sherri Griffith Powell, senior communications consultant, as well as Molly Falls, senior technology specialist.

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