Public Safety Communications News Round-up – May 6, 2016

​​The Public Safety landscape is being inundated by change, on a scope and scale not seen before. Here’s a round-up of the latest industry news and updates including some great pieces from Urgent Communications, Avaya, South Bend Tribune, Vincennes Sun-Commercial, ABC57 News, DIGITAL JOURNAL,THE REPUBLIC, and more. Enjoy!

Text-to-911: proving its worth
Back in mid-March we wrote about how momentum for text-to-911 was growing. Now, this recent opinion piece in the South Bend Tribune reveals several dramatic examples of how text-to-911 is ‘proving its worth.’ In one case a woman who was kidnapped and held hostage by an armed man managed to text 911, and was rescued by police. The Executive Director of the 911 center that handled the incident said that they had only recently implemented text-to-911 and credits the service with saving the woman’s life. In another scary situation, two kids riding in the back seat of their father’s car used text-to-911 to report their dad who was driving drunk. Fortunately, police were able to intervene before something terrible happened.

More 911 centers are starting to take texts, but in Bartholomew County (Indiana), a quick-thinking 911 operator used outbound text messaging to help a woman in a domestic violence situation. The woman had initially called 911. But when the operator asked ‘what’s your emergency,’ instead of getting a response, he overheard her say “Put your gun away' and immediately jumped into action. He used GPS to determine the woman’s location, and then proceeded to text her, while leaving the phone line open. He was able to get details on the suspect, his weapon, and his state of mind, which he relayed to officers. Of course this is not a classic example of text-to-911, but it clearly demonstrates the value of texting, especially in domestic violence situations.

Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired also rely on non-verbal means to communicate, such as TTY (Text Telephones). TTY may have been state of the art in the 1960s, but today, the machines, which are bulky and cumbersome, are no match for modern smartphones. Recently, the FCC announced that it is taking steps to replace TTY with real-time text (RTT technology), citing growing adoption of text-to-911. According to the proposed rules, RTT will replace TTY on wireless phone networks beginning in December 2017.

NG9-1-1: What’s in a word? Or in this case an acronym?
Is ‘NG9-1-1” the industry’s most misunderstood buzzword? Avaya’s Mark Fletcher posed the question in this recent blog.

“NG9-1-1 is not something you can buy and plug into your existing public safety network, miraculously transforming a legacy environment into a ‘next generation’ environment. And yet, it’s often described that way,” he writes.

But before we get to what NG9-1-1 is, let’s first talk about what NG9-1-1 isn’t.

According to Fletcher, NG9-1-1 isn’t a physical thing. It’s not a building block or a component. Nor is it as simple as, in his words, bolting text-to-911 onto [a legacy infrastructure]. Instead, we should think of NG9-1-1, he says, in its truest sense as the complete functional framework embodied in NENA’s original vision.

Fletcher explains: “A true NG91-1-1 solution means dispatchers can receive voice, video, text, email and other forms of multimedia on a SIP-enabled infrastructure…To truly describe an upgraded environment as next-generation 9-1-1, an Emergency Services IP Network containing required i3 Functional Elements (as defined by NENA) must be built and deployed, replacing the legacy E911 network.”

While some might say that debating the definition of what NG9-1-1 is and isn’t, is mere semantics, Fletcher does have a point. No one would argue that there is momentum in the industry and good strides have been made toward modernizing emergency communications, but we all need to keep our eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel.

We hope you enjoyed this Public Safety news round-up. Be sure to respond in the comments or tweet us @NICE_PublicSafe.​

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