Helping America’s Public Safety Telecommunicators

This week (April 12-18) is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week , when the nation recognizes the dedicated men and women who solution Americans’ calls for help at 911 centers across the country. These call takers and dispatchers provide the first important contact for those in need of emergency providers. In the midst of crises, they obtain essential information from callers in order to hyperlink them rapidly to police, medical personnel, and emergency medical responders – and at times even dispense essential, life-saving information themselves.

To perform this critical mission, the particular nation’s telecommunicators need a 911 system that keeps pace with technical advances, particularly as communications systems migrate to Next Generation technologies plus consumers embrace smartphones and brand new communications applications. New technologies also bring opportunities to improve our 911 system, but they do not lessen the particular nation’s need for skilled telecommunicators. Even the best technology cannot replace the essential person-to-person connection offered by a 911 call-taker to a person in need or a dispatcher’s knowledge of the local neighborhood that is often critical to timely and effective response.

It is why our focus at the FCC must be on helping telecommunicators secure the technology that will greatest support them in the challenging function they do and help them do their jobs more effectively.

We recognize that telecommunicators’ jobs significantly encompass not only call-taking and dispatch, but also the integration and analysis of multiple sources of information to determine the appropriate response to any given emergency. In fact , 911 communicators are conducting more analysis, from more information sources, plus producing better response results than in the past. This trend will increase as Next Generation 911 ushers in more text, video, and data in addition to traditional voice demands help. We also recognize that it is state, local, and tribal community safety authorities – not the particular FCC — that must make the difficult choices regarding how best to take care of the cost of providing emergency services whilst maintaining – and whenever possible, enhancing — the effectiveness of those services.

These choices are made more challenging by the sweeping communications changes that will affect all jurisdictions. Communications systems are shifting from wireline to wireless, from circuit-based to packet-based IP architecture, and from locally-provided to cloud-based services. Consumers are also increasingly tech-savvy and driving anticipation of what technology should be able to do for them, both in everyday use and emergencies. These trends require crisis response agencies to consider how to integrate Next Generation capabilities and functions to their operations, including new media (such as images, video, and text), big data and data analytics, GIS mapping, and targeted notifying. Equally important, emergency response agencies must consider how to maintain the dependability and security of these new systems, services, and technologies against a variety of threats, ranging from natural disasters to cyber attacks.

Helping state, local, and tribal specialists address these challenges was a key factor in the FCC’s decision to call together, get together, gather, assemble the Task Force on Optimal PSAP Architecture, which began its function earlier this year. Under the leadership of experienced public safety executives Steve Souder, Director of the Fairfax County, Va Department of Public Safety Communications, and Dana Wahlberg, 911 Plan Manager for the State of Minnesota, the Task Force brings together Public Basic safety Answering Point managers and specialists from key sectors, including 911 system service providers, communications service providers, technology vendors, and federal, state, tribe and local governmental organizations. Within the next few months, Task Force working organizations will develop and present recommendations in three important areas:

  • Recommendations for PSAP-specific cybersecurity practices based on the NIST Cybersecurity Platform and other foundational sources.
  • Recommendations on how PSAPs can improve 911 features and cost-effectiveness through consolidated NG911 network architecture design and operation.
  • Recommendations on resource allocation and cost management for PSAPs to transition to NG911 and models for sustainable funding of NG911 operations.

These recommendations may serve as important guideposts for 911 authorities to determine the right mix of PSAP infrastructure and architecture improvements to support telecommunicators in the Next Generation 911 era. They will also assist 911 specialists in making decisions on workforce planning, firm, recruiting, and training of telecommunicators in this evolving environment.

As we move forward with these initiatives, the particular celebration of National Public Basic safety Telecommunicators Week reminds us that will in the midst of sweeping change, telecommunicators continue to keep play an essential and central part in the delivery of public security services. We salute these dedicated professionals and look forward to continuing to working with state, local, plus tribal public safety authorities to make sure the nation’s 911 system functions at its highest level.

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