To serve and to protect – that’s the mandate for today’s police, firefighters and first responders. With cities becoming more crowded and threats on the rise, effective security and emergency response is a priority for state and local governments. Increasingly, these agencies are turning to technology to get the job done – which is why an evolution of 9-1-1 services is so critical.
The public emergency response and communications system is currently in a state of dramatic transition. Building on the proliferation of mobile devices and smartphones, the public is now making use of enhanced communications via a growing Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) infrastructure. This includes such functionality as data transmission of text, images, and video – as well as emergency communications and critical data transfer.
According to recent data by Pew Research, more than three-quarters of Americans currently own a smartphone – an increase of 2x since 2011. Building on this trend, almost seven in 10 Americans actively engage in social media on a regular basis. As real-time communications across these devices becomes the norm, it only makes sense to link into the advanced public emergency response and communications system.
Driven by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), next-generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) is a system based on modern Internet protocol-based networks using advanced texting and video messaging. Linking communications networks across state and local governments, the solution enables emergency services to access a faster, more resilient system for data sharing and communications. The ultimate goal is for all emergency communications to take place via IP-based public safety answer points (PSAPs) via a standardized platform.
But adoption doesn’t come without challenges. Unfortunately, many public IT infrastructures lack the bandwidth, reliability and flexibility to power this next-generation of public safety. In fact, a national survey of PSAP employees recently noted 67% experienced a minimum of one network outage during a 12-month period. For a foundation supporting public safety, the consequences of such outages can be severe. Yet another challenge is technology integration and budget restrictions. States seeking to adopt NG9-1-1 must quickly navigate a range of new technology standards, and are further limited by adequate funding to upgrade technologies and protocols.
Most governments cannot afford to risk poor emergency services during upgrades to current systems. The key is maintaining legacy environments while pursuing incremental changes in the move towards next-generation 9-1-1. More often than not, most at the state and local level choose to adopt a hybrid approach as the ecosystem evolves.
One logical road map is to align with a partner capable of delivering both new technologies and legacy infrastructure upgrades. These providers also help during the strategic planning phase, pinpointing core investments for both the short- and long-terms. Service providers like CenturyLink are trusted to deliver public safety services on contracts supporting NG9-1-1 capabilities – spanning IP networks and IP-based software to application databases and data management processes – all interconnected to effectively communicate with PSAP premise equipment.
A reliable, integrated NG9-1-1 service and solution allows state and local entities to route data to the right emergency entity based on caller location, while maximizing available data elements and business policies to augment PSAP routing. These systems reliably transfer calls to other PSAPs with full supporting data and capitalize on all types of voice and multimedia calling.
The most effective offerings from technology vendors are built atop such advanced solutions as government-driven Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) – driving private, secure cloud-based communications. Ranging from Hosted PBX to SIP Trunking, these solutions quickly eliminate the burden of managing legacy equipment.
CenturyLink is now taking these possibilities to the next level – adopting a new contract from the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) for 9-1-1 equipment and emergency call management solutions. This ensures state agencies, local governments and select non-profits can capitalize on our NG9-1-1 call routing services, on-premise call handling applications, data management and managed security services via this select program. This ultimately makes it easier for government groups to access the power of CenturyLink on their path towards next-generation public safety.
The world is getting more and more complex every day. As part of an obligation to protect the public, state and local entities simply cannot wait to start the NG9-1-1 transition. Now is the time to act.