Next Generation 9-1-1

Today's 911 systems are built, operated and maintained locally, usually by counties, but sometimes by municipalities and states. Only recently has there been any federal involvement in 911 matters, and there has never been any interconnection among 911 systems to allow transferring of calls, etc.
The Issues Now

NG9-1-1 is many years from being fully implemented nationwide. However, much top-level planning has occurred, and in 2011 the FCC has issued several formal documents to jump-start the transition. Check the NENA and FCC Web pages for the latest activities.

Most within the 911 community have realized that today's 911 systems need a gigantic advance in order to continue efficiently handling today's level of traffic, and to handle tomorrow's new requirements: handling video, photos and text, and the ability to transfer 911 calls among comm centers.

This project of improvement has become known as Next Generation 9-1-1, or NG911. The concept involves many layers and topics:

  • standardizing the underlying technology of the nation's separate 911 systems, most likely using IP technology and Internet-based communication links
  • creating more centralized databases of information to handle calls
  • interconnecting PSAPs to allow unlimited transfers of calls, distribution of overflow 911 calls, to other centers, and other call-handling features
  • allowing the 911 system to accept and handle advanced information from citizens, including video, photos, text messages, etc.
  • interconnecting with private services, such as telematics providers, to handle automatic crash notification (ACN) and other similar data.
  • adding advanced features to the 911 system, such as automatic routing for languages, mapping, medical info storage, etc.

Several major groups are working on NG911--the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO), the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

In addition, many other stakeholders have entered the planning process, in connection with an an originally unrelated plan to bring high-speed Internet service to every part of the United States. The National Broadband Plan is being spearheaded by the FCC, and has brought the attention of many groups and companies, since it promises billions in funding that otherwise would not be available. In turn, those groups and companies have brought an enormous amount of political lobbying and funding to the broadband planning process, which clouds many of the technical issues.

NENA - Their Web site has a short explanation of their work, and a blueprint (pdf) for future action.. The group has a Next Generation Partner Program to gather expertise and experience from both private and commercial sources. In June 2009 NNEA released a draft standard for "other data" that will be used in a NG911 network. They also held an Industry Collaboration Event (ICE) in Nov. 2009, intended to bring NG9-1-1 participants and their network elements together for testing [Web page]. Lastly, they have posted an updated chart (Excel, xls) of NG9-1-1 implementation in the U.S.

APCO - In July 2007 the group signed a joint agreement on NexGen 911migration and transition planning. They groups agreed to solicit input and share output with each other. APCO has an official NexGen 911 initiative, dubbed Project 41.

DOT - They have an aggressive $11 million program to study NexGen 911, as part of their responsibility to improve public safety communications, in turn as part of an effort to improve highway safety and to reduce deaths and injuries. They have taken a wide-ranging, multi-disciplinary view, gathering input and assistance from as many stakeholders as possible. Check their Web site for more information. In Oct. 2009 the DOT published their final product, a Procurement Took Kit (pdf) that includes self-assessment, planning, procurement and post-implementation evaluation.

IETF - This group is responsible for the way the Internet is engineered, so their efforts are "out there." Their working group Emergency Context Resolution with Internet Technologies (ECRIT) is handling the issue of NexGen 911 and expects to have a full report finished by the end of 2007. Check their official Web site, and the group chair's Web site for more info.

Other resources:

  • Federal NG911 Web site / updated standards list and review (pdf)
  • NENA's Web page on NG9-1-1
  • ConneXon Telecom Inc. has a Web site devoted to advanced 911
  • Paper by Prof. Henning Schulzrinne (Columbia University, NY) on IP technology and 911 [pdf]. The professor has been studying IP and 911 for many years and is one of the leading experts on the matter. Also check slide presentations by Schulzrinne (#1 / #2 / #3 / #4)
  • A presentation by Qwest on implementing NexGen 911 [pdf]
  • A story on the ECRIT work in Networking magazine.
  • Network Reliability and Interoperability Council (NRIC) 2005 final report on "...Beyond 911" [pdf]
  • The Next Generation Emergency Services Subcommittee (NGES) of the group AGIS is working on standards for communications links among public safety agencies.
  • State of California report on NG911 project (pdf)
  • NENA NG9-1-1 "Definition Document" (pdf)
  • A U.S. Department of Transportation's NG9-1-1 report on its proof of concept at two agencies (pdf)
  • U.S. DOT diagram of NG9-1-1 architecture (pdf)
  • State of Texas NG9-1-1 Master Plan (Feb. 2009 (pdf)
  • NG911 presentation at 2009 CAL-NENA conference (pdf)
  • DOT NG911 project status (pdf)
  • In July 2009 California issued an RFI (pdf) for the first phase of its NG911 project
  • The federal National E9-1-1 Implementation Coordination Office (ICO) issued a "National Plan for Migrating to IP-Enabled 9-1-1 Systems" in Sept. 2009 (pdf).
  • NTIA/Executive Branch views on public safety in connection with national broadband plan (pdf)
  • In March 2010 NENA released a 26-page NG9-1-1 Transition Policy Implementation Handbook.
  • In Nov. 2010 the state of Georgia issued an RFP for a statewide NG911 system (pdf)
  • Presentation on NG911 during Texas Transportation Institute conference (pdf)
  • Presentation on California's NG9-1-1 program
  • Study of transition to NG911 factors by Avaya exec Guy Clinch (pdf)
  • FCC issues cost study of NG911, Sept. 2011
  • FCC issues first Report & Order asking for input on NG911 transition, Nov. 2012
  • Vermont begins text-to-911 trial, Dec. 2012
  • APCO Emerging Technologies, 2013 forum presentations
  • Legal and regulatory framework for NG9-1-1, study by FCC, Feb. 2013 (pdf)
  • NG911 Guide for Law Enforcement Leaders, by U.S. National 911 Program (pdf)
  • AT&T has a Web page devoted to NG911 and a Tennessee case study. New
  • NTIA informative video about NG911 New

[source: U.S. Department of Transportation, July 2007]

Download a high-resolution (png, 5.1 Mb) copy of this diagram.

[source: U.S. Department of Transportation, July 2007]

[source: U.S. Department of Transportation, July 2007]

[source: U.S. Department of Transportation, July 2007]

[source: U.S. Department of Transportation, July 2007]