While states work through issues like call mapping and end of lifecycle technology, emergency responders are often caught up in the battle to modernize. Morgan County, Ohio worked through just those issues when it upgraded to the first NextGen-911 system in the country.
“We were literally relying on 1960s technology to be frank,” Dave Bailey, Morgan County NextGen-911 Coordinator, said in an interview with CivSource. “Fiber optic cable had never been used in this way but we made the decision that we wanted to do this right. We could’ve assembled a group of vendors that would each provide a piece of the puzzle, but it made more sense for us to go to a comprehensive solution.”
To that end, Morgan County worked with General Dynamics Information Technology, to build out the first NENA i3 compliant NextGen-911 system.
NENA i3 compliance is a compliance guideline from the National Emergency Number Association that focuses on end-to-end IP connectivity. Gateways are used to accommodate legacy wireline and wireless origination networks and essentially creates an emergency response communications platform that is cloud based and less reliant on manual processes. NENA has been working with emergency response management teams nationwide to develop compliance guidelines and best practices for this kind of system. The end goal is local and nationwide interoperability between first responders.
General Dynamics replaced Morgan county’s traditional Enhanced 911 (E911) call-handling system with a new IP-based system that will allow emergency service requests from the public networks using a variety of communication methods and devices, including text, VoIP, and video. The system also provides enhanced Geographical Information System data that accurately maps the caller’s location information, and the ability to transfer calls and corresponding information to the most appropriate emergency response units. General Dynamics built the system on secure cloud architecture and can scale to accommodate emergency communications for neighboring counties.
“The system was designed to handle 5 or 6 additional counties that can come online as part of the system and share information. They can be the surrounding counties or adjacent counties because we are operating on cloud architecture and have removed all of the onsite equipment,” explains Ed Naybor, General Dynamics IT vice president supporting NG-911 initiatives.
“What this means for us is that if an event happens and we need to transfer over all of our calls to the next county, we can do that automatically and before we had to do that through a manual process,” adds Bailey. “We’ve already met with the surrounding counties to show them the system. It’s not something everyone is immediately ready to jump to but we think the case for it is clear.”
The data center which powers Morgan County’s new 911 system is housed at Ohio State University, and the state helped to facilitate some of the fiber optic network efforts required to bring the system online. Bailey notes that he’s providing consultation to other counties and would also be willing to do the same for other states considering such a radical overhaul of their call systems.
“From a procurement standpoint, we’re really living the dream,” Bailey says. ”We had questions going in about change management and the total cost because we scrapped everything that was there. But once people realized how easy it was to use this system, getting people trained on it was easy. The real question you have to ask yourself as an emergency response person is ‘why are high school students walking around with more power in their smartphones than we are in our 911 system? How is that really doing the right thing for the people we are supposed to protect and serve?’”