Corrected on Nov. 11, 2006, from a previous version.

The National Emergency Number Association, or NENA, last week launched an initiative that the organization hopes will ensure a coordinated and managed approach to the deployment of next-generation 911 systems nationwide. As part of the initiative, NENA has created a Technical and Operations working group that will develop a plan to transition public-safety answering points to IP-based NG911 systems.

The transition to NG911 involves “a lot of moving parts that have to work in unison,” which prompted NENA to recognize the need for better coordination, said Patrick Halley, NENA’s director of governmental affairs, in an interview with MRT.

Previously, NENA’s technical committee has been working for the past couple of years on ways to replace legacy infrastructure and migrate to a fully IP-based 911 system without degrading existing capabilities in any way. At the same time the operations committee independently started looking at how the ability to accept any device, anytime from anywhere would change the 911 environment.

“We’re not going to be able to just flip a switch and everyone is [going to say], ‘Great, we have next-generation 911. It’s not going to work that way,” Halley said. “This announcement says, ‘We have to deal with this issue.’ We’re moving 60 miles an hour and we can’t just stop the car. We have to figure out how we’re going to get where we need to get, without interrupting what we have. This initiative is about identifying the transition issues.”

Another goal is gather information and data from non-NENA NG911 efforts—such as the trial currently underway at Texas A&M University, which is funded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration—that can be shared with other entities. “Demos and trials help us to learn from each other and avoid making the same mistakes,” Halley said.

Given the multiple and disparate entities involved in the effort, Halley said a project-management approach to NG911 is crucial.

“Everyone can’t go out and do their own thing,” Halley said. “It’s not a control issue. Someone needs to pull the pieces together, and I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of push-back on NENA being the one to do that.”