Following the recent FCC announcement in the U.S., it is not surprising that text-to-9-1-1 is on everyone’s minds. And, after attending the What's Next for Next Generation 9-1-1 in Canada conference, I can tell you it's equally on the minds of Canadians too.
At the conference, I participated in an interesting panel discussion on “Text-to-9-1-1, Video, Images, and Data in a Next Generation 9-1-1 Environment.” Joining me for this super-sessionwere Nancy Banks, ENP, RPL, Peel Regional Police, Rob Clark, Frequentis, and Tracy Finn, Toronto Police Service.
Here are some of the key take-aways from the discussion:
1. With NG9-1-1, telecommunicators will need to process emergency calls and communicate with the public in new ways. While there’s obvious trepidation about how to manage text to 9-1-1 calls, it is natural to fear the unknown. On the positive side, this is what’s driving us toward finding answers and proper planning.
2. Toward this end, PSAPs in Canada are taking baby steps in their implementation of NG9-1-1 systems. One example is the trial of text-to-9-1-1 in Canada which just ended. During the trial, four agencies (Toronto, Peel, Montreal and Vancouver) offered text-to-9-1-1 as a service to the deaf and hearing impaired communities. Through this trial participating PSAPs were able to develop some best practices for processing text-to-9-1-1 calls, for example, using plain language, responding to the text-to-9-1-1 caller with one question at a time, limiting texts to 140 characters, etc.
3. People are really intrigued to learn more. Nancy Banks and Tracey Finn fielded many questions from the audience about the trial. People wanted to know how it worked, how many texts their agencies processed, what interface they used, whether it integrated with their CPE, and so on.
4. Another key discussion point focused on logging text-to-9-1-1 calls and other NG9-1-1 communications. In the future, PSAPs will need to capture and reconstruct these communications, in much the same way that they capture traditional voice communications today, except there will be many more sources of information to capture and synchronize: text, images, video, voice, etc.
Above all, I think the general consensus was that NG9-1-1 is a journey, not a destination, and the reason we are all traveling this road together is to provide better service to the public. This is a point that I, and my fellow panelists, are all passionate about.