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A Case for 911’s Most Impactful Milestone Thus Far

Anniversaries and milestones go hand in hand. Consider the arc of a typical human life. A person is born. That momentous event is followed by others: the first day of school, graduations, marriage, children, and then grandchildren and, if they’re fortunate, retirement, with a few personal and professional achievements realized along the journey. The longer the life, the more the milestones pile up.

Telecommunicator-Training Guidelines: Proof that Collaboration Means Progress

Great things happen when an industry comes together as one.

Case in point: After Morgan O’Brien unveiled his idea for a nationwide interoperable broadband communications network for first responders in 2006, special interest groups soon developed within public safety concerning how the network should come about. There was so much disagreement and infighting that some feared Congress would get tired of it all, dismiss the idea, and reallocate the radio frequency spectrum needed to make the network a reality, resulting in a critical opportunity being lost forever.

Fortunately, public safety came to its senses and began to speak with a unified voice, largely due to the efforts of a group that called itself the Public Safety Alliance, and the rest is history. Congress enacted the Middle Class Tax Relief and Jobs Creation Act of 2012, which created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), and authorized $7 billion in funding for the buildout of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN).

Another example of collaboration – the Telecommunicator-Training Guidelines

Another impressive example of industrywide collaboration culminated last summer when the Recommended Minimum Training Guidelines for Telecommunicators were released.

You can read more about them here.

Representatives from a diverse set of organizations—trade associations, public safety agencies, and 9-1-1 training vendors—looked past their own agendas and interests, and worked for more than three years to deliver the guidelines. Consensus-driven, these guidelines are intended to foster a baseline level of competency that will result in a more-consistent level of service being delivered to citizens and first responders, no matter where they are.

Major progress has already been made

Already the guidelines are being put to good use.

  • In the state of Idaho, a law was passed last week that mandates hiring standards and 40 hours of certification training, approved by the Idaho Peace Officer Standards & Training Academy, upon being hired as an emergency communications officer/emergency services telecommunicator.  It also requires 40 hours of continuing education every two years after that to maintain the certification.
  • In Minnesota, new training requirements adopted by the Metropolitan Emergency Services Board (MESB)—which covers the nine counties that surround the twin cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul—took effect on January 1, 2017, are based on these guidelines.
  • In Kansas, a revised set of standards were developed by the Kansas 9-1-1 Coordinating Council, spell out the topics that should be included in the first 40 and 80 hours of telecommunicator training, take effect next year.

Each of these efforts is approaching telecommunicator training and certification just a little differently—which was the intention behind the national-level guidelines from the beginning. While they are intended to ensure a baseline level of competency for all 9-1-1 centers nationwide, the group emphasized that 9-1-1 centers can build upon and enhance the guidelines based on local needs and circumstances. What each of the efforts described above have in common is that they used the national guidelines as a benchmark.

Topics: Industry News

The Time is Now for Congress to Champion NG911

(A similar article originally appeared in Urgent Communications)

Late last year, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) expressed his concerns regarding the vulnerability of today’s 911 systems to cyberattacks. He specifically cited a Ben Gurion University research study that said it would be quite easy to infect mobile phones with a bot that would unleash a denial-of-service attack on the 911 system, possibly to the degree that service could be disrupted across an entire state or even a major portion of the nation.  

The former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler responded by stating that Next Generation 911 (NG911) systems represent a solution in this regard.

No communications system can be safeguarded completely against cyberattacks—the hackers always seem a half step ahead—and NG911 systems are no exception. However, they do offer the ability to dynamically reroute emergency calls to 911 centers in the next city, county or even the next state, which would mitigate the effect of any cyberattack that would bring local operations to a halt. This ability is lacking in today’s legacy 911 systems.  

Reaching a critical limit

The most compelling part of Wheeler’s response was that FCC is “close to the limit” of what it can do to make NG911 service a reality nationwide. He called on Congress to “create national enablers to accelerate the transition to NG911.”

The enablers already exist in the form of the NG911 NOW! Coalition, which consists of leading 911 industry organizations, including

  • the Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies (iCERT),
  • the National Association of State 911 Administrators (NASNA), and
  • the National Emergency Number Association (NENA)

These organizations work alongside the NG911 Institute and other organizations to move NG911 implementation forward.

The Coalition’s goal is that all 911 centers in all 56 states and territories will have NG911 systems in place, and will have retired all legacy 911 systems, by the end of 2020.

Money is needed to make this goal a reality. A lot of it. This is why Congress must play a critical enabling role. Congress must commit to funding nationwide NG911 implementation. It can be done as demonstrated years ago when it funded nationwide broadband data network deployment.