T3 Webinar Question and Answer Transcript

Next Generation 9-1-1: 21st Century 9-1-1 for Large Cities (May 21, 2009)

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Q. You spoke of a grant program that's going to be administered or has already been administered?
A. John Chiaramonte: I think I'll probably defer to Ms. Flaherty here.
A. Laurie Flaherty: One of the three main responsibilities of the national 9 1 1 office is the administration of a grant program specifically for the benefit of public safety answering points. As you may have seen on one of the previous slides, we have received a small appropriation for that grant program for the first time. Our goal is to have the final regulations for that grant program published in the Federal Register on or before June 1st. It is a grant program specifically for the benefit of the PSAPs. We look to get the money out the door before the end of this fiscal year, which means by the middle of September. Since we are in the regulatory mode and the final regulations are about to come out, I can't really tell you exactly what's in them, but I'd be happy to send you information with regard to where to find language from the statute, the Enhanced 911 Act of 2004, because there are an awful lot of specifics in there with regard to what the applicants need to submit.
Q. I'm just curious, because I know—I'm not sure if you'd like to address Next Generation progress-but there are still some smaller communities that don't even have basic 9 1 1, and I'm wondering if those will be given priority?
A. Laurie Flaherty: In the original legislation they were not. There actually have been three other laws passed by Congress since that original act that impact this grant program. One of them allows entities to give priority to call centers that don't even have 9 1 1. The way Congress worded that was that the entity was not required to do so, but they were allowed to do so. In the notice of proposed rules, we emphasized that in terms of the proposed regulations, and there were proposed regulations published in the Federal Register in October and there was a 60-day comment period. We received comments up until December of last year. There was a provision and subsequent legislations that allowed for that, since that's what Congress—that's the way they wrote it, we really don't have the authority to require anybody to do that, since the language said, "may" not "must." But it is included in there. Also, another law that was passed subsequent to that one allowed the funds to be used for next generation types of technology. In the original legislation that was confined to Phase II technology, but when the law was being passed and when the bill was being debated, it was 2003. That was the state of the science. That was very important. We were really glad to see that, because obviously we're interested in helping people pay for tomorrow, not for yesterday.
Q. What does the ICO acronym stand for?
A. John Chiaramonte: The ICO stands for the national 9 1 1 Implementation Coordination Office.
Q. Has the 9 1 1 center logging recording mechanism been taken into account as this technology moves to the Next Generation 9 1 1?
A. John Chiaramonte: Sure. That's an important question to ask. As the data becomes more and more voluminous, how do we maintain those records for legal purposes? Unfortunately, we live in a litigious society. Yes, data at all levels associated with Next Generation 9 1 1 calls will be recorded, but recording takes a little bit different perspective. If you think about it, in Next Generation 9 1 1, everything is IT based, so it's all data associated. Voice calls are IT based, so it's data. Text messages, video, images — that's all data. So you're going to be see things stored in databases and in large storage arrays versus having reel-to-reel tapes recording audio.
Q. Did the POC testing include routing calls based on latitude and longitude? If so, how can I get information or details of how that was done?
A. John Chiaramonte: Sure. One of the main components of the Proof of Concept was to identify caller's location. Caller's location was either from a flat file where the traditional ANI ALI information is static, from landline telephones, to Phase II wireless callers, what we will be using for latitude/longitude or global positioning system type information. We also used that type of information associated with various other devices, location of where devices that could tell you that you've moved a device from one place to another, so it's not where you thought it was, that type of thing. The results of the Proof of Concept are available on the USDOT's website in the Proof of Concept final system design. Additionally, for caller's location information, there's a number of different functional requirements, and those are available in the system requirements document.
Q. Have you engaged the state and local emergency management community in your research regarding Next Generation 9 1 1?
A. John Chiaramonte: The state and local emergency management organizations, emergency operations, traffic operations, other responders that may not be the traditional police, fire, and EMS responders were certainly part of the stakeholder outreach effort. It's kind of tough, because in many states emergency operations and emergency management have different priorities and different levels of operation within the government. So sometimes jurisdictions have a very close working relationship with their emergency management staff. They may sit in the same facility as the 9 1 1 community. In some places they're completely separate and sometimes don't have a good working relationship or close communication relationship. So it's very tough to get everybody involved that needs to be. That goes back to the stakeholder management. That's going to happen at a local level. While we did reach out to some emergency management folks, more work in general has to be done, again, much of that at the local, regional, or perhaps state level.
Q. What about 5 1 1 ITS?
A. John Chiaramonte: 5 1 1 in many states is used to get real time type traffic information, either from the Internet or from voice activated systems that you would dial 5 1 1. 5 1 1 will play a role, like other N 1 1 services, in Next Generation 9 1 1. So 5 1 1 may be important to work with Next Generation 9 1 1 folks for passing and sharing information in both directions. It's kind of an important thing to think about. In many cases, people only think about 9 1 1 as being citizens calling the authorities. Really, you've got a couple different ways of that communication happening. Citizen to authority, somebody picking up the phone or using a device to dial 9 1 1 and make a connection to 9 1 1, yes that's important—in many cases, that's what most people think of. But then there's authority-to-authority communication, the sharing of data. It's your 9 1 1 center talking with your traffic management of your 5 1 1, your traffic operations. It's your 9 1 1 center talking to maybe a 3 1 1 center and sharing information back and forth, offloading certain calls of a nonemergency nature or the people that call 3 1 1 when they have a real emergency, it requires a response, getting that information back to 9 1 1 for the actual response. Maybe it's 3 1 1 having direct access into NG 9 1 1 kinds of systems. It might be working with the deaf and hearing impaired relay community, where we are able to do an automatic video teleconference when a deaf or hearing impaired person calls from a video enabled device. We already know that it's a deaf or hearing impaired person and we can automatically conference in the relay center to do the sign language interpretation. To answer the initial question, 5 1 1 is important. I forgot the third part to prove my point. The third part of this communication is authority to citizen. How do we get information from our 9 1 1 centers, from NG 9 1 1, from our other public safety and emergency communications, emergency operations, emergency management folks back out to the community, whether it's using reverse 9 1 1 or other alerting type technologies, whether it's using the IPAW system, the Integrated Public Alert and Warning system, to allow for various methods of alerting our citizens in emergency situations, whether it's sharing information about current traffic incidents that are going on with the 5 1 1 center so the 5 1 1 center can change variable message signs on our nation's highways. Just think about some of the different components that we have with the ability to take in all this really good information. We may want to evacuate a location because of a weather situation or a hazardous material spill. That type of information, authority to citizen, is that third component that's very important to the NG 9 1 1 community.
Q. How does this integrate programs with initiatives for emergency services internetworking?
A. John Chiaramonte: That's what we're talking about with Next Generation 9 1 1. Next Generation 9 1 1 is seen as a network of networks or a system of systems. We talked about the transition, that there will be a variety of different ways to implement NG 9 1 1 solutions. One of those ways will be from that bottom up approach, that local communities band together to regionalize their data sharing and communication and create a little network. That region may reach out to the statewide network and states reach out to neighboring states. You can see how that grows. Next Generation 9 1 1, at its very core, is this sharing of information over wide area networks, private, secure, but robust networks to share that data across very large areas.
Q. How is the DOT coordinating with the NENA Next Generation 9 1 1 working groups?
A. John Chiaramonte: Throughout the Next Generation 9 1 1 initiative over the last three years, NENA, the National Emergency Number Association, has been an integral part of our team, providing subject matter expertise, assistance with the Proof of Concept, development of everything from the requirements to the architecture. They've been integral to our success. They also have a very close working relationship with the Implementation Coordination Office. That strong relationship will continue.
A. Laurie Flaherty: I think one of the strengths that NENA brought to this project as a member of the team is all the work that they have done in terms of engaging all of the stakeholders that really are necessary to pull this off. They were gracious enough to make those contacts available to us and we took full advantage of that in terms of involving all those stakeholders in pretty much every document that you see and every piece of the project. Unless it works for everybody, it's not going to work. So it was really important to us to make sure that all the stakeholder perspectives were represented in this project. It made it a whole lot more complicated, but I think it made it a whole lot better when we got to the end of it.
Q. I know a lot of the equipment vendors are waiting for the standards to be complete before they can build their equipment to those standards. We have several representatives from NENA here. I'm wondering if you could give us an update on where that standards work is in the process and how soon that's expected to be complete?
A. Laurie Flaherty: We've been working on many of the standards associated with NG 9 1 1 since 2003. A good bit of that information was injected into the USDOT project, if you will, as a basis for the architecture and the various functionalities involved in the POC system and the architecture in the DOT initiative. But in general, we're very close to finishing the core ESInet and IP based software services definitions in architecture and design. That major document will be coming out sometime this summer. We have some issues at the moment with completing some of the aspects of that in terms of the number of subject matter experts that have sufficient time to continue working on it. We have taken some actions on that to improve that situation. We have many other standards and documents that are in the mill, some major documents in terms of NG 9 1 1 database related standards and processes, a lot of operations, both PSAP and some near future point in time system operations type documents. All of this is pointed currently. We have a major discussion of this coming up in two or three weeks. But all this is pointed currently at having beta testing of a standards based NG 9 1 1 system probably in an area of southern Illinois we've settled on as a test location, a pilot location if you will, in the second quarter of 2010 with the third quarter basically being modification, adaptation, improvements, getting the details worked out, etc., then a true first application of a standards based NG 9 1 1 system in pretty much the full width and breadth of that meaning in the fourth quarter of 2010. That's our current target.

We have some challenges in terms of actually getting that done, because of the inability of a lot of our subject matter experts to spend as much time as is needed to actually make that schedule. We're working on improving that situation sort of on a constant basis, if you will. That's the timeframe that we're looking. If that first application in the fourth quarter of 2010 proves out at a very high level of consistency, and we don't have to make very many improvements or changes, then in theory a full standards based NG 9 1 1 system set could start rolling out in 2011 around the country. In the meantime, of course, there will be a lot of interim systems that are put into place, a lot of people, vendors in areas of the country are working on what I like to refer to as NG 9 1 1 like systems with the intention of both the vendor and the state and municipal areas that are working these things to converge on the standard set when it's complete so that we have that state and national interoperability capability that standards and processes bring to the table here. There's a lot of moving parts in this process, not just in the system but also in getting all of this work done and appropriately tested.
John Chiaramonte: I'd just like to add one small part to that. Over the last few years there's been a collection of standards development organizations coming together in an emergency services coordination workshop. That allowed a number of different standards organizations to coordinate and collaborate, rather than going off in separate directions. It's been very beneficial. The vendor community has been heavily involved in that effort in pulling some of these standards together to make sure that there's no redundancy or overlap between standards and to make sure that standards are consistent and will work across one another.
Q. For our PSAP, the biggest concern that I have is the time it's going to take to process text-based calls. In the Proof of Concept, what analysis has been done about the timelines that it's going to take? That's going to affect staffing models. I'm curious as to what information might be about that. Along those same lines, what is the vision for what the public education message is going to be with Next Generation 9 1 1? The idea that everyone wants to text, that's a wonderful thing just because you can do it, but whether they should do it, the soapbox that I'm always going to be on is we get nuances everyday from voice calls that call receivers, using their professional judgment, change a response or ask questions and background information and sounds that we will not have for text-based calls. Is the vision to encourage people to use text services only as a last resort or is it going to be we'll just take whatever?
A. John Chiaramonte: You ask a very important question. Let me just say two things. Public education in general about Next Generation 9 1 1 is crucial. That was heavily described and discussed in the transition plan. It's not just text messages. People have an expectation of picking up a device that looks like a telephone, dialing 9 1 1 and reaching somebody that can provide some help. Right now today, that's not always the case. These are devices out there for Internet-based call systems that aren't a telephone system and it's a cordless phone. It looks like a phone, but you can't dial 9 1 1 from it. Public education in general, whether it's text based, video based calling, your telematics devices calling 9 1 1 is a big issue and we did spend a fair amount of time in the transition plan discussing that. The second question talks to text messages. We found that traditional IM, SMS is pretty deficient for emergency calling. It doesn't provide location. It was never meant to provide location. It was never meant to have guaranteed delivery. There are some fundamental problems associated with traditional SMS. But during the Proof of Concept, we did test text messages and tried to make it more of a conversational process. One of those policy issues that we talked about will be: How do you handle text messages? Maybe you don't—maybe it's handled by a 3 1 1 center and if it really is an emergency, then we work that out. Maybe we change the technology. Maybe we use some other text-based communications solution that's not SMS. It looks like SMS, maybe acts similar to SMS, but isn't SMS. You do get the location of a caller, you do have a connection with the caller that is persistent and it's more instant messenger-like. That may be a solution.

We did talk about that in the transition plan as well. That's one of those things that groups going on are going to have to fight it out. Right now, today, SMS is not the best solution, even though the consumers think it is and they want to use it. We could talk a lot more about that, but I'd like to point you toward the documentation available on the USDOT's website, because that did play very heavily in both the Proof of Concept, as well as the transition planning that we did.

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