A lot of data is being collected about 911 service in the United States by a plethora of government entities at all levels. The data collected by everyone—from local and regional authorities to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)—is used for a variety of reasons:
- To help understand 911 capabilities and progress toward Next Generation 911 (NG911)
- To understand the cost of migrating to NG911
- To ensure and provide telecommunicator training and quality assurance
While data collection is useful, we need to speak the same language. When we want to understand how many primary and secondary PSAPs there are in the U. S., we all need to have the same understanding of what is meant by the terms that we use. There are two very big, interrelated problems we face in the industry today: the lack of consistency in how data is collected, analyzed and presented; no uniform framework exists for collecting the data—no one-stop shop if you will.
I can speak to this from personal experience. Before joining MCP, I was director of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Emergency Communication Networks (ECN) division. While I was there, ECN regularly was asked to provide data. A fairly common scenario goes like this: four different entities would seek the state of NG911 deployment in Minnesota; they would ask slightly different questions; and then the data would be presented in four completely different ways. I would wonder, did they use the data? Did the data mean something different to them? It did not seem that we were speaking the same language.
These problems first were articulated by the FCC’s Task Force on Optimal PSAP Architecture (TFOPA), which identified the need for not only a unified data repository but also a “911 data dictionary,” which among other things would define common nomenclature so that the data would mean the same thing to everyone, regardless of the entity managing the collection.
TFOPA’s findings led to the creation of the 911 DataPath project being facilitated by the National 911 Program and supported by MCP and its partner, Dynamic Pro, Inc. The “911 DataPath Strategic Plan,” which establishes a voluntary framework for a uniform 911 data system, has the following long-term strategic goals:
- Data uniformity
- Automated data handling
- Role-based information sharing
- Sustainable vital support mechanisms
- Data-savvy 911 professionals
The project is beginning to focus on the first goal, data uniformity, which has two components: building the common language by creating a 911 data dictionary, and building a framework for implementing the common language through use of interim and future-state 911 data-exchange models. The former is intended to standardize data terms, elements, and collection methodologies. For example, when a 911 administrator is asked, “how many primary PSAPs do you have,” the term “primary PSAP” should mean the same to everyone. Everyone needs to speak the same language. The latter is intended to define the ideal environment for data collection and archival.
Does this seem familiar? Not long ago, it seems, we were all grappling with, and wrapping our heads around, the concept of NG911. This was a great idea but also was a task that required a lot of hard work over a long time period. This initially took the form of identifying the entities that would drive the concept forward and developing the strategies that would bring it to fruition. Today, NG911 is well on its way to becoming ubiquitous from coast to coast. Here’s hoping that the 911 DataPath project will find similar success.
The National 911 Program will present the webinar “911 DataPath—Using and Sharing 911 Data—Get Involved” on Tuesday, July 7 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, and again on Tuesday, July 14 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. During this event, you will learn more details about the project, where it stands, and how you can get involved. I urge you to participate. The 911 DataPath project is sorely needed—and it needs your help to become a reality.