Karin Marquez participated in the recent NG 9-1-1 Panel Discussion at APCO along with other industry representatives.)
Whether you’re a 9-1-1 telecommunicator, director or vendor allied to the industry, or a 9-1-1 supervisor like me, we all need to prepare for Next Generation 9-1-1. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way that you might find helpful.
First of all, the migration to NG9-1-1 is a journey, a process. Don’t feel like you have to do an all-at-once transition. Learn from the challenges that each IP install brings. Understand that implementations are not perfect. Share your lessons with others and do an after action analysis of each project so you can plan better for the next one.
It may sound commonsense, but simply put – “Do what’s right.” With any big undertaking, first consider if the decision you’re making is right for your agency, County, State, citizens. Ask yourself – are your agencies’ decisions ethical, legal, made with integrity? Do the vendors you work with share those values?
Funding is also big consideration, especially in today’s tough economy. Where you can, leverage existing equipment. Share technology with other agencies. For example, you may be able to open your IP system up to another agency or vice versa. Always think about the bottom line and how to best serve the community. Ask yourself – as a citizen and taxpayer, would you be happy with the way your agency is using its 9-1-1 funds?
Let go of the agency pride and build collaboration. By building trusting partnerships today, and consolidating equipment purchases for a greater return on investment, you might just save your PSAP from future consolidation. Collaboration has other benefits too – for example, you can keep current staffing while creating hot standby back up centers that can be used in the event of a disaster or even a smaller scale emergency.
So what are some specific steps you can take to move forward?
First, build partnerships with your vendors, providers and your own internal staff – especially your IT department, radio technicians and your maintenance folks. As you bring more IP systems into your 9-1-1 center, your agency’s IT department will have to connect those systems into your firewall. So you need to overcome any potential resistance to that.
Historically, our agency has had 9-1-1 service providers maintain all of our equipment because the City IT staff did not have the appropriate level of system knowledge. But had we left IT out of the NG9-1-1 migration process we would have undoubtedly faced more challenges along the way. So IT has been invited to and involved in every meeting. They understood what we were trying to accomplish and were very willing to help out and provide access to the City network. Make sure that your meetings include all of the key players and decision makers, both internal and external (IT, networking, telephone systems engineer, and phone, radio, logging system providers) so you can be confident everyone’s playing in the same sandbox together.
Another key point – the project management responsibility for implementing NG9-1-1 technology rests with your agency. So it’s your job to make sure your vendors and providers are meeting their goals and deadlines. But it’s also important to do self checks to make sure your agency isn’t holding anything up.
Always be respectful. Whether or not you like who you’re working with, you can hold them accountable without screaming or name calling. Manage with integrity. Be direct. And if you have to end a relationship, it can be done without compromising your integrity. You may need to challenge processes and costs. That’s ok. Honest, timely communication will produce results.
Lastly, think outside of the box with respect to collaborating with other agencies. If you’re sharing a system, you can order items together in bulk and save money. Going in with someone else on a grant can also help save money and give you a better chance at obtaining grant monies. This may require that you write up MOU (Memorandum Of Understanding) documents outlining each agency’s responsibilities (e.g. who will maintain what parts of the system and how each agency “plays” with the other). But the extra effort could well pay off.