MCP Insights

Newest Podcast Covers the 911 Community’s Biggest Issues — CAD System Inconsistency, the Staffing Crisis, and More

Posted on January 25, 2022 by Glenn Bischoff

For more than a half century, the 911 system in the United States has performed admirably, saving countless lives in the process. But today it needs some work. A migration to Next Generation 911, which represents a quantum leap forward in terms of capabilities compared with the legacy 911 system, is what we hear about most often. But several other key aspects require equally rapt attention.

Recently I participated in a podcast with Laurie Flaherty, the recently retired coordinator of the National 911 Program, and John Chiaramonte, president of Mission Critical Partners' consulting business, in which a few of the most pressing needs were discussed. (Click here to view the podcast, or view it as video here.)

The State of Computer-Aided Dispatch Systems

One concerns the state of computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems. Nearly every emergency communications center (ECC) in the U.S. uses a CAD system to dispatch 911 calls and facilitate records management. However, very few, if any, CAD system components are uniform across the vast number of CAD system vendors — estimated to be somewhere between 50 and 100 — because very few industry standards exist to govern their actions.

This situation creates a significant barrier to transferring emergency calls and associated data, e.g., location information, an essential function required for the 911 community to transition to NG911 functionality. It also creates a significant challenge for transferring call information to first responders in the field via public safety broadband networks, which is needed to enhance situational awareness.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in which the National 911 Program resides, is taking the first step toward addressing the situation by assessing the CAD systems used by ECCs from coast to coast, a project that Mission Critical Partners is supporting. The resulting report will explore how to address the challenges and costs associated with establishing a standards-based, interoperable CAD data-sharing capability across the 911 community nationwide.

A Never Ending Staffing Crisis

Another significant issue discussed during the podcast concerns the staffing crisis affecting the 911 community. Staffing always has been a challenge for ECCs, but today more than ever. Staffing shortages have made an already stressful job even more stressful. During the podcast we explore how alternative response strategies and tactic might be part of the answer. But we also discussed the need for reclassifying telecommunicators to reflect their role today. For a long time, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics classified telecommunicators in the same category as clerical workers. This classification does not seem correct based on the work they currently perform as the first responders.

The current classification has a profoundly negative effect on the self-esteem, compensation, and career development of telecommunicators, which profoundly negatively impacts recruitment and retention. This situation contributes significantly to the staffing crisis that the 911 community is experiencing.

To help turn this situation around, the National 911 Program developed a toolkit with MCP’s support. It is designed to enable ECCs to demonstrate to the BLS that reclassifying telecommunicators makes perfect sense.

What is described in this blog represents just a small portion of a wide-ranging conversation. I urge you to view the podcast as soon as convenient — I guarantee that doing so will be time well spent.

Glenn Bischoff is MCP’s content specialist. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of Urgent Communications for a decade. Email him at

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