When people talk about the emergency response system of tomorrow, the predictions are breathtaking: firefighting drones, human-operated robots, real-time 3-D simulations, and more.
Some of that may sound like science fiction—especially given the budgetary and resource concerns facing public safety organizations. But there are sound emergency communications investments that departments can make today to prepare for tomorrow.
Let’s take a look at ways that public safety organizations can prepare for the emergency response system of the future.
Digital two-way radios are a must-have for public safety departments. One of the best ways for departments to lay the groundwork for the future is to switch from analog two-way radios to digital if they haven’t already. That goes for firefighters and police radio systems.
In addition to interoperability, digital two-way radios offer
- Longer service range
- Stronger reception
- Superior audio quality
Digitized voice communications
Importantly, today’s use of digital mobile radio technology, or DMR, to digitize voice communications converts the sound of a voice into the same kinds of letters and numbers as the data on a computer. That digitization process offers all kinds of benefits, such as allowing multiple conversations on the same radio frequency and better clarity.
Next Generation 911
The promise of next generation 911, or NG911, is exciting: Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) will gain access to updated wireless communications technology—including text, video, and enhanced location services—that bridges the gap between first responders and the communities that rely on them.
We’ve come a long way since 911 networks had to route callers based on telephone numbers. Today’s digital solutions include benefits such as true system interoperability, including
- Data sharing between PSAPs
- Improved redundancy and reliability (virtual PSAPs)
- Improved response times
- Enhanced disaster response
There are good reasons to anticipate and prepare for the arrival of NG911, with technology including
- Text-to-911: This has been slated to be the first thing integrated into 9-1-1 for the hearing impaired. The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) has been tasked with adopting the protocol and determining the next steps to bring the standard into the communication centers.
- Pictures: In addition to text, citizens will be able to send pictures to 9-1-1, giving dispatchers and first responders an unparalleled look at what’s unfolding before anyone even arrives at the scene.
- Video: Real-time video capabilities will take sharing from the scene to a new level, offering live footage, in addition, to still photos for even greater visibility.
Not Yet Ready for Prime Time
As with most technologies, NG911 has challenges in terms of the technology itself, the need for new rules and regulations, and the cost of implementation for public safety answering points and telecommunications carriers.
911 Consolidation: A Vital, Stop-Gap Solution
Since Next Gen isn’t quite ready to be implemented, there is an option for 911 dispatch centers to take the first step forward by using geo-diverse technology. This solution is an IP-based emergency response system that enables agencies to receive emergency calls and helps to send the fastest, most appropriate emergency responders while easing the impact of major project upgrades that will be required later. This scalable 911 system solution is designed to withstand high capacity and the test of time.
911 Consolidation can be complicated, but the right experienced partner can simplify and streamline the process to help
Centralize operations to achieve maximum control of available resources
Make recommendations on upgrades
Minimize the cost of designing emergency operations centers or backup systems for critical situations or outages
Integrate employees from different public safety agencies
Incorporate voice, video, and data, including mapping, GPS, and internet
Get Ready for the Future Today
Eventually, all 911 dispatch centers will have to make the big shift to Next Gen, in addition to making upgrades in police radio and emergency radio equipment. Tackling the shift sooner rather than later, and partnering with a vendor that offers custom solutions, including 911 consolidation, will help agencies to successfully transition and adapt.
The future, after all, is already on its way.