Next Generation 911
Since the adoption of Act 12 of 2015, public safety leadership in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has prioritized bridging the digital divide to strengthen our aging 911 ecosystem. Our existing 911 system faces technical challenges that have a direct impact on the ability of public safety answering points (PSAPs) to continue providing critical services to both the public and first responders.
Consumer communications technology has outpaced improvements and capabilities in 911 and the public safety community in general. The current 911 infrastructure is largely comprised of old, less flexible, and soon-to-be-obsolete technology that was built on the analog technology of the 1970s.
Next Generation 911 (NG911) is a necessary transition from Pennsylvania’s current, decades-old legacy 911 system infrastructure to an Internet Protocol (IP) based 911 system.
While the responsibility of providing 911 service still rests with the local jurisdiction, PEMA recognizes the importance of the commonwealth’s role in supporting the coordination of this project among all its stakeholders. Together, we can ensure a smooth transition through the most significant technological upgrade in decades.
In fall 2020, after a considerable review process, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) announced the selection of Comtech Telecommunications Corp. to implement and operate Pennsylvania’s NG911 system. The Comtech solution provides a progressive approach to building NG911 in the commonwealth, achieves the intent of priorities outlined in Act 12, and lays a foundation to support future technologies and system capabilities.
A phased installation of NG911 is set to begin in early 2021, and last for a duration of approximately two years.
Pennsylvania’s NG911 system will be unlike any other in existence. At its core is a fully fiber-based Emergency Services Internet Protocol Network that is structurally resilient and brings high data transfer speeds to the deepest reaches of the commonwealth.
Capabilities with Next Generation 911
From the traditional wireline telephone to the most recent sensor or mobile device, Pennsylvania’s NG911 system will allow PSAPs to be better equipped to:
- Receive incoming 911 calls faster, and with more accurate caller information
- Transfer 911 calls and associated call information to the correct jurisdiction
- Rely on current technology to locate a wireless caller’s location
- Securely receive multimedia communications like text messages, photos, and video
Our NG911 system will also give every PSAP in Pennsylvania the technology to provide Text-to-911 service, further enhancing our commitment to providing improved access to emergency services for all members of our community.
The Role of GIS Data
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data is a foundational element of NG911. PEMA and GIS stakeholders at all levels of government are collaborating to establish and maintain a statewide GIS framework to support NG911 operations. Our goal is to create a set of current and seamless statewide GIS layers to support NG911 Core Services and that PSAPs across the commonwealth can access at any time.
NG911 requires five critical GIS layers:
- Road Centerlines – Represents the estimated centerline of a real-world roadway.
- Site/Structure Address Points – Represents the location of a site or structure, or the location of access to a site or structure. Together, with Road Centerlines, they pinpoint where responders need to go.
- PSAP Boundaries – Outlines the geographic service area of a PSAP that has primary responsibilities for an emergency request and, in a NG911 environment, defines which PSAP will answer the emergency call.
- Emergency Service Boundaries – Defines the geographic area for the primary providers of response services (law enforcement, fire, EMS) and determines which dispatch agency will respond.
- Provisioning Boundaries – Defines who is responsible for maintaining GIS data in that jurisdiction.
Where a 911 call originates, in relation to the above-described layers, determines the PSAP and emergency responders who respond to that call. For this reason, it is critical that GIS data be accurate and current across the commonwealth.