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A Few Words About Marc Berryman — GIS Visionary and Vital Voice of Reason

In a few days, I will have the distinct, yet bittersweet, honor to accept the National Emergency Number Association’s Presidential Award on behalf of Marc Berryman, my friend and colleague who died a year ago after a short battle with cancer. This will occur during NENA’s 2023 national conference in Grapevine, Texas, on June 18.

Exploring the Basics of Crisis Communications for Public Safety

A constant in the public safety community is that agencies, no matter where they are located, inevitably will encounter a crisis that will affect, or even disrupt, their operations. Hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, hazardous materials spills, cyberattacks, network outages and system failures—even a pandemic every century or so—can wreak havoc on an agency’s mission-critical operations. Consequently, it is imperative that every public safety agency has a crisis preparedness plan. This is particularly true of emergency communications centers that field 911 calls from the public and then dispatch the appropriate emergency response.

The Public Safety Communications Challenges We’re Tackling in 2020

Earlier this year, public safety communications professionals from across the country came together in Austin, TX, to discuss and address the most pressing issues facing the industry at NENA’s Standards & Best Practices Conference. We discussed in a previous blog post why events like this one are critical to our industry’s success in continuing to improve emergency response outcomes. Which challenges are we tackling this year and what’s next for 911?

Conferences like NENA’s SBP Are Key to Advancing Emergency Response

In the past, we’ve talked a lot about the critical role that standards play in the advancement of next generation 911 (NG911). They help to ensure interoperability between disparate solutions providers by reducing proprietary development and promoting open-source approaches to design. But as technology continues to change, standards and best practices development becomes even more important in addressing the issues that agencies continue to face when trying to fully implement NG911. That’s where conferences like the National Emergency Number Association (NENA)’s Standards & Best Practices come in.

Statewide Implementations Are Best For Text-to-911

Imagine being on the freeway and encountering a horrific accident, one that almost certainly has resulted in fatalities. You instinctively reach for your mobile phone, and then freeze—because you are a member of the deaf/hard-of-hearing/speech-disabled community and text-to-911 service has yet to arrive where you live.

This is no hypothetical event. It actually happened to Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin, who spoke about it during her keynote address at the 2013 Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) national conference. Matlin—who has been a devoted advocate for text-to-911 service—reportedly said at the time, “Instead of being able to instantly text to 911, I had to trust and leave it to other bystanders. And I shudder to think, what if it had been me in the accident—how could I have called?”

Four years later, text-to-911 service still isn’t ubiquitous in the United States—in fact, it is nowhere close to ubiquity, as only about 14 percent of public safety answering points in the United States have implemented the service.

This leads to a critical question: why isn’t this lifesaving feature universally available today?