In 1968, AT&T announced that it would establish the digits 9-1-1 as the emergency code throughout the United States. AT&T has been in the 9-1-1 business from the beginning and is in the forefront of the current shift to NG911. I recently had the pleasure to interview Jodi Chapin - AT&T Director, State and Local Government Marketing and Pat Thetford - AT&T Sales Director, Public Safety Solutions about AT&T’s perspective on NG911 solutions and to also interview David Alexander - Director, Hardin County TN 911 Services, and Deborah A. Sands - 911 Administration Manager/911 Coordinator, Brevard County FL about their experience implementing a NG911 solution from AT&T.
For the vast majority of PSAPs, when someone calls 9-1-1 the only information the call taker gets is a phone number and an address. That works just fine when the caller is using a regular phone in their home, but over the past few years, as David Alexander pointed out, “we have moved from a localized community to a mobilized community.” That creates problems for PSAPs. While Enhanced 911 can get location information, people using mobile phones expect to be able to leverage the functionality they provide – images, video, texting, and especially call routing to the right PSAP when they are on the move. Pat Thetford expressed some concern that people don’t know that they can’t fully utilize their cell phones when calling most 9-1-1 centers today. NG9-1-1 solves this problem.
With a NG9-1-1 enabled PSAP people can call using voice or text, send pictures and videos, send accurate location information, and get routed to the closest PSAP quicker. As our society embraces mobile communications the 9-1-1 system must keep up.
But wait, there’s more! NG9-1-1 solutions let you use and share data and information in new ways; supports better integration with other applications; and provides great flexibility in how people can communicate - meaning a NG9-1-1 solution can help you do your job better, faster, and even cheaper.
Hardin County, TN has been and AT&T client since they first implemented 9-1-1. When it came time to build a new communications center, David saw the opportunity to make the move to NG9-1-1. One incident stood out as a prime example of why they should do it. They got a call one day from a grandmother who said her grandchildren were texting her explaining that they were in the car with their mother who was drunk and they were afraid for their lives. The children did not know where they were. The dispatcher had the creativity to have the kids call 9-1-1 (enhanced 9-1-1) and just leave the line open. They finally tracked the mother down through the GIS capability in the cell phone and arrested her. The kids were safe. They knew they dodged a bullet on that call - it took too long to locate the car. If they had a NG9-1-1 solution in place the kids could have texted 9-1-1 directly.
What Sets Them Apart
AT&T has been in this business from the start. Their experience with over 2,500 PSAPs puts them in the top category of knowing how to do this. The company also has a strong history of innovation through AT&T Labs research, a significant group of people dedicated solely to public safety solutions, and one of the strongest communications networks in the world. And one more thing, they are committed to working with the public safety community through various associations they support.
AT&T Public Safety websites for First Responders, Command & Control, and Continuity Solutions http://www.corp.att.com/stateandlocal/public_safety/
AT&T Labs Research:
Whitepaper: Digital Communities - Next generation networks for public safety. Build locally to achieve nationally (start on the bottom of page 8 "Solution: Next Generation 911"). http://www.corp.att.com/stateandlocal/docs/ps_next_gen_network.pdf
Video of AT&T Disaster Response Capabilities http://www.corp.att.com/stateandlocal/media/apco.mp4
Tips for Success
David and Deborah had some helpful tips for other agencies looking into NG911.
- Do your homework and make sure you have stakeholder buy-in.
- Make sure you set up effective communications. Keep everyone involved in the project involved and up to speed. David found www.MavenLink.com to be very helpful. It is a free to very cheap way to collaborate with multiple people and teams.
- Be wary of wolves on sheep’s clothing – vendors may take advantage of you.
- Make sure you are not buying beta software.
- Talk to the vendors and more importantly talk to others who have used their solution.
- Be patient and flexible.
The 9-1-1 system must keep pace with how citizens communicate. NG911 is a solution you must at least look at and see if you can get your system up to speed with your community. AT&T has done this for a long time - they know the ropes and know how to get it done. They have the people and recourses to help you make this happen. Give them a call.
Company Name: AT&T
HQ City & ST: Dallas, TX
# Employees: 256,210
Web site: www.att.com/publicsafety
PSAP Clients: Over 2,500 PSAPs
Years in business: 136 years