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We are likely all familiar with the Simpsons episode, where Homer frantically screams, “Help, Operator! Give me the number for 911!” Although we find this humorous in the United States, there are still quite a few places around the globe that haven’t adopted 911 or 112 (found deployed across the European Union) as their primary mechanism to reach local emergency services. In a recent article published by the Samoa Observer over the holidays, 911 has just been adopted there, to help alleviate the confusion caused by Samoa’ s multiple emergency numbers .
Happy Birthday 911!
Coming on February 9th of 2018, the United States will be celebrating 50 years of this life-saving emergency number. This small town in northwestern Alabama took the prize to be the first community delivering this service when Alabama Speaker of the House, Rankin Fite officially inaugurated the system at 2 PM with a call to 911 that was answered by Congressman Tom Bevill at the Haleyville Police Department, where that historic red phone is still on display under glass case.
Why a Special Number?
Prior to the existence of any emergency number, such as 999 in the UK, 000 in Australia, 112 in Europe, or 911 in the United States, the purpose of the number remains the same worldwide. Even today in Samoa, Minister of Communications and IT, Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i was quoted stating that the primary reason to implement 911 was to, “[move] from three different emergency numbers (994; 995; 996) to one particular number which is 911.”
In most emergency districts, emergency services is broken up into three separate areas. Police, fire, and EMS or medical. With many agencies acting independently from each other in the past, the dispatching and command-and-control of those services also operated independently. But, with most other things, consolidation at certain levels makes sense from cost efficiency as well as workflow optimization. Because of this, it’s very common to see multiple services tightly coupled from a dispatch perspective. In Europe, many agencies remain in their silos for command-and-control, however they have removed the decision making process from public view by implementing a single 112 emergency number that terminates in a specialized center that is able to triage the situation, provide preliminary pre-arrival instructions, and seamlessly transfer to the appropriate agency based not only on the type of emergency, but the location of the incident. This similar model has also been deployed in many areas of the United States, where a County facility will provide centralized call taking for all emergency services, then coordinate with the appropriate agencies as needed.
What about Next-Generation Emergency Services?
With NG Emergency Services literally right around the corner, you may wonder if governments like Samoa are making a smart investment deploying a legacy environment today, and not waiting a few months for the “latest and greatest.” That dilemma, is one that every agency fights, and has been fighting, for several years. Fortunately, the industry can learn through its many years of experiences bringing technology to its current state. For example, when I started in telecom in the mid-80s, I was introduced to ATTMail, an internal email system that AT&T used to communicate between sales reps and their distributors. Being an installer, I saw little use of the tool, but I know it provided those that scheduled my work a new level of collaboration with the field representatives selling product.
Back then, for all intents and purposes, the Internet didn’t really exist, for the public at least. Connectivity was done through point-to-point dial-up services, and limited to 1200 and 2400 baud modems. As for the content, the emails were all simply ASCII text, keeping payload to a minimum. The use of email didn’t really explode until online services such as CompuServe and AOL became available to the masses, providing some level of connectivity between users. Even then, those communities of interests could easily communicate with each other, but communicating with someone else on a different network proved to be difficult.
Finally, we experience the Internet explosion. This modern day “big bang” provided basic connectivity between just about everyone, and every device. But the emergency networks remained as one of the last holdouts, citing fears of cybersecurity and total anarchy if hackers got into the system. While we have seen some minor exploitation of emergency networks across the globe, for the most part, the extensive forensics that are deployed on the network that track financial and government facilities, have proven to be very useful in quickly identifying the culprits of any attack, as well as quickly block and tackling the network, minimizing risk.
The NENA i3 framework for NG Emergency Services not only addresses the network itself, but addresses the transition from legacy networks, as well as the interoperability with legacy networks, knowing that there is no magic “switch” that can be flipped to move from one to the other.
Therefore, countries like Samoa, can purchase with confidence today a new fully compliant NENA i3 NG emergency services PSAP, and connect it to their legacy PSTN network without any worry through a Legacy Network Gateway. Likewise, if a country decides to deploy a NENA i3 NG emergency services ESInet framework, their existing legacy infrastructure can connect on day one through a Legacy PSAP Gateway. NENA i3 already addresses interoperability on both sides of the equation, and in both directions.
END to END Emergency Services at AVAYA ENGAGE
Avaya is a leader in contact center technology, worldwide. We are also a leading provider of Enterprise Communications solutions. Taking our deeply rooted history across the telecom industry, it is no wonder that we have taken that experience and fostered relationships with key partner from our DevConnect program, and formed a synergy of solutions we like to refer to as Avaya Public Safety Open Connect Partners. These partners make up the core framework of the End to End, Avaya Public Safety Solution from the Enterprise to the PSAP, and from Citizens to PSAP, and then extending that further with future connectivity to first responders in the field providing critical information from the people who have the data, to the people who need the data, and in an as needed timeframe, so the information is both actionable and relevant.
We will be showing this LIVE in the main Avaya booth at the Public Safety Pedestal, and interconnected with Select DevConnect Partners Conveyant Systems, Beta 80 International, and Engelbart Software. Through this localized ESINet, we will provide live video and media content from the incident, and from the AVAYA ‘Eye in the Sky” Drone to not only the dispatcher, but to the first responder through collaborative communication.