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Massachusetts to Begin Next Generation 9-1-1 Deployment

August 11, 2014

The 911 system has basically been operating for more than 40 years with a technology that is no longer up to par with today's more advanced IP based communications. The availability of multiple touch points now allows individuals the ability to communicate with text, voice and video using smartphones, tablets and PCs. As the adoption rate of these technologies continues to increase by the majority of the population, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has laid the groundwork for the implementation of Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) by wireless carriers nationwide.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts announced it plans to introduce the new system to improve the way information is transmitted between its residents and emergency dispatchers by deploying NG911. The Massachusetts’ State 911 Department, which is an agency within the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, contracted General Dynamics Information Technology to create the Commonwealth's Next Generation 9-1-1 System.

The new system will introduce communications technology that will allow the 249 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP) throughout the Commonwealth to serve as the first point of reception of 911 calls from any voice, text, telemetry or image based services. It will also improve interoperability of first responders as well as providing the foundation for future public safety communications.

One of the main features of NG911 is its ability to provide texting to relay emergencies by individuals. This is especially important for the close to 48 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing, and the approximately 7.5 million who have speech disabilities. Additionally, there are many instances in which an emergency situation doesn't allow the individual to speak because of the dangers they face, making texting an invaluable alternative.

With adoption rates of more than 90 percent for cell phones and more than 63 percent for smartphones, the availability of text-to-911 can be used by virtually everyone around the country.

"We're very excited about the transition from the current enhanced 9-1-1 system to the Next Generation 9-1-1 that will take place over the next two years. This new system will allow for a more efficient communication between citizens and the PSAP's, and be capable of expanding the means of making a 9-1-1 called beyond voice to the benefit of the citizens of the Commonwealth," said Frank Pozniak, executive director of the Massachusetts State 911 Department.

While the text-to-911 system was not mandated by law, on August 8, 2014, the FCC adopted rules requiring text messages providers to enable Americans to text 911 in an emergency. The new rules will ensure all remaining wireless carriers and certain IP-based text application providers are prepared to support text-to-911 by the end of the year. 

Edited by Adam Brandt