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Deployment and Operational Guidelines for Next Generation 9-1-1/E 9-1-1 Systems Summit Summary

The Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau hosted a Summit on Deployment and Operational Guidelines for Next Generation IP-Enabled 9-1-1 and E 9-1-1 Services on Wednesday, February 25, 2009. The Summit brought together public safety organizations and industry representatives to address these matters and build upon the Bureau’s February 2008 Summit entitled, “9-1-1 Call Center Operations and Next Generation Technologies.”

Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein opened the Summit by stressing the importance of discussing this critical public safety topic. He said partnerships among all parties involved in 9-1-1 services are imperative.

The New and Emerging Technologies 9-1-1 Improvement Act of 2008 (NET 9-1-1 Act) requires that the Commission work with public safety organizations, industry participants and others to promote consistency in the deployment and operation of IP-enabled 9-1-1 and E9-1-1 services through development of standards concerning geographic coverage areas for Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs); PSAP certification and testing requirements; network diversity requirements for delivery of IP-enabled 9-1-1 and enhanced 9-1-1 calls; call-handling in the event of call overflow or network outages; validation procedures for processing location information; and the format for delivering address information to PSAPs.

Jeff Goldthorp, Chief of the Communications System Analysis Division for the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, moderated the panel discussions. Mr. Goldthorp noted that when 9-1-1 services began forty-one years ago, it was a relatively straightforward system based on circuit switched network technology and static location information. In the 1990’s, wireless technologies changed 9-1-1 because caller location information was not static; however there was a desire to leverage legacy wireline E9-1-1 infrastructure and to avoid changing interfaces to PSAPs.  These requirements made wireless E9-1-1 complex to implement, but the process is nearly complete. Now, we have a new access technology based on the commodity internet, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).  With VoIP, the underlying network technology has profoundly changed from circuit switched technology to Internet Protocol (IP) technology. Again, to avoid complicating matters for PSAPs, VoIP E9-1-1 calls are currently routed through legacy E9-1-1 infrastructures to PSAPs via existing interfaces.

At some point in the future, once PSAPs are able to accommodate IP interfaces and host the necessary applications, Next Generation 9-1-1 may be based entirely on IP so that no translation, gateways or connection issues will arise and the feature-richness of NG9-1-1 can be enabled. Under these circumstances, 9-1-1 services and applications can be developed that are far more helpful to people in need than the technologies that exist today.

Panel One

This panel focused on IP-Enabled 9-1-1 and E9-1-1 network issues including diversity requirements, call-handling in the event of call-overflow from network outages, and PSAP certification and testing requirements.
Panelist comments on network issues include:

  •  Network diversity requirements. Gregory Rohde, Executive Director of the E 9-1-1 Institute, said PSAPs are struggling with technology advancements. He cited a survey suggesting that only about half of the PSAPs in the U.S. have broadband technology. Pete Eggimann, Chair of the Operations Committee for the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), remarked that PSAPs are financially stressed; investing in new network interfaces may not be possible, given some local budgetary constraints. In the meantime, Douglas Jones, Director of Corporate Technology for Verizon, said the industry should coordinate with PSAPs, particularly smaller PSAPs, to keep interfaces simple and not overburden the PSAPs that cannot handle the technology changes quickly.
  • Call-handling in the event of call-overflow from network outages. Steve Wisely, Interim Director of the Communications Center & 9-1-1 Services for the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO), said dealing with call overflows is a local PSAP decision. Drew Morin, Senior Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer for TeleCommunication Systems, Inc., indicated the VoIP networks can handle larger call volumes; the concern is whether the local PSAPs have enough resources and personnel to handle larger call volumes. Mr. Wisely suggested consolidation and regionalization of the administration and networking of PSAPs to simplify this issue.
  • PSAP certification and testing requirements. Mr. Morin acknowledged the lack of regulation for the VoIP industry. Drew Dawson, Director of the Office of Emergency Medical Services within the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, suggested coordination of technology training and protocols on the national level so PSAPs would be able to use information produced from new technologies (e.g. devices in defibrillators that could initiate a 9-1-1 call at the first sign of cardiac arrest).

Panel Two

This panel focused on IP-Enabled 9-1-1 and E9-1-1 data issues including determination of geographic coverage areas for PSAPs, validation procedures for inputting and updating location information, and formats for delivering address information to PSAPs.
Panelist comments on data issues include:

  • Determination of geographic coverage areas for PSAPs. According to Steve Marzolf, Integrated Services Program Director of the Virginia Information Technology Agency, jurisdiction and boundaries are significant issues. Currently, there is a lack of coordination between not only public and private partners, but also within local governments. Roger Hixson, Director of Technical Issues for NENA, said there is a lack of a common approach to gathering geospatial information among 9-1-1 authorities. In the future, Mr. Hixson suggests 9-1-1 authorities establish databases with geospatial information available to service providers and public safety entities.
  • Validation procedures for inputting and updating location information. As Michael Doherty, Director of Carrier Operations for Vonage noted, location information is continually changing and Master Street Address Guides (MSAGs) need to be continually updated and maintained, which is difficult for some PSAPs. Stephen Meer, Chief Technology Officer for Intrado, recommended that MSAGs or other location information be advanced alongside Next Generation 9-1-1 Services in order to coordinate address of all systems, especially as we move from pre-process validation to real-time validation.

Issues for the Hearing-Impaired community

Panelists from both panels addressed issues of concern to the hearing-impaired community. Pete Eggimann, of NENA and St. Paul (MN) Emergency Services Board, discussed possible new developments for Next Generation technologies for the hearing-impaired, including messaging online. Jim Bugel, Assistant Vice-President for Public Safety and Homeland Security Policy for AT&T, said his company and other service providers work closely with special needs individuals to ensure that new and developing technologies would be useful for the hearing impaired.

Next Generation E911 Summit Poster