The Next Generation of 911

Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has offered some observations in an op-ed piece for the NY Times into the issues and concerns facing the 911 emergency system as people within the United States continue to migrate to smart phones.

While traditionally handled through calls, the increased prevalence of smart phones has made the option of communicating with the 911 emergency system via text, photo, or video a viable option for many. However, the technology at many 911 centers is still lagging to the point where they are unable to receive or respond to such messages. While such support is available via the NG911 (Next Generation 911) standard, this support is still limited to specific regions, says Wheeler.

As observed by Wheeler, this NG911 standard will "link 911 call centers to the latest Internet Protocol-based networks, uses mapping databases and software to route calls and pinpoint the real-time location of 911 callers, and supports voice, text, data and video communication. NG911 also gives responders better tools to handle high call volumes in major emergencies and to defend against cyberthreats as the system migrates to Internet-based networks. The bottom line is that NG911 will make our 911 system more accessible and more reliable, and it will dramatically improve emergency response."

Until such an upgrade is complete, the national 911 emergency response system will remain at risk, as a patchwork of systems may leave gaps that are left exposed in the event of future emergencies.