Text-to-911 Was ‘All the Talk’ at NENA

Having recently returned from NENA, I can tell you that the big buzz this year was Text-to-911. I counted at least five Text-to-911-related sessions, and while walking the show floor I saw a number of products for handling this specific type of multimedia communication.

A number of vendors now provide an interface for handling SMS communications at the PSAP. Essentially, this is the application that call takers use to manage communication with the texter. Most include canned responses, mapping of the texter’s location on a GIS map, and more. Some also provide the back-end technology that bridges between the mobile carrier and the PSAP and allows the PSAP to service all carriers from a single Text-to-911 interface (rather than having a separate application for each carrier).

Not only is Text-to-911 coming in the near future, but other types of multimedia 911 communications are expected as well. I saw a newly developed technology that allows the public to send images and video to 911 via the Internet. This complements Text-to-911 as texting is limited to SMS and doesn’t cover MMS. The capability of PSAPs to receive images and videos of an incident or suspects in real time is important. This information can not only help create better situational awareness in the PSAP, but can also be shared with responding units.

Another technology that was on display delivers profile information on people, buildings, vehicles, and other assets to the call taker and dispatcher allowing them to respond more intelligently. This is beneficial not only for EMS calls, but also for fire calls. For example, if there was a fire in a building where there were hazardous materials, this information would be made available to the call taker or dispatcher handling the call. Images can also be included in the profile information.  

While at NENA, I also had the pleasure of speaking with Glenn Bischoff from Urgent Communications about the future PSAP which of course touched on some of these very same points.

It’s going to be an exciting road to NG 911, and Text-to-911 is another milestone on that road. At the end of the day, PSAPs will be able to provide a better service to the public, and I look forward to continue learning about and influencing how NG 911 shapes up.


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