Congress needs to make a substantial investment in the NG911 initiative, according to Mark Reddish, APCO’s senior counsel and manager of government relations.

“We’re looking at billions—at least $10 billion to make sure that PSAPs nationwide have the resources they need to make this push to this next generation of public-safety communications technology and that there are mechanisms in place … to ensure that continues going forward,” Reddish said during the APCO 2017 session.

NG911 implementations should utilize commercial and industry standards to maximize economies of scale and ensure the kind of interoperability that is commonplace in the consumer space, Cohen said.

“I could take a photo, and I could send it anybody’s device,” Cohen said. “It doesn’t matter what service provider I’m using or what service provider [the recipient] is using … and these are the people who going to be trying to reach 911. They already have it.

FirstNet’s already doing something similar for first responders. And, unless we get this initial infusion of capital—based on a common, comprehensive definition of what NG911 should be—then 911 is going to remain a bottleneck, where the public has the ability, first responders have the ability but 911 doesn’t.”

With so many potential new sources of input—particularly videos, photos and sensor data—there are a number of operational issues that still need to be determine. Some of the most notable are associated with processing all of this, as many in the 911 community have expressed concern that 911 telecommunicators easily could be overwhelmed by all of the potential information.

 “There are two main effects [from NG911 implementations],” Cohen said. “One is the volume--you suddenly have much more information available. And two is the kind of information it is—it could be a very disturbing photo or a disturbing video.
“Should you have someone who is trained to see it and be able to diagnose it a little bit and affect the response? All of these things have to be considered. One of our recommendations is—in planning your workforce—maybe you need a new position like a data analyst, someone that’s familiar with analyzing data and being exposed to it but maybe also needs other qualities from a responder or a medical perspective to help triage this and deal with it.”

Reddish noted that this could mean that PSAPs/ECCs may need to revamp their training, adopt new staffing models and seek more “tech-savvy” personnel. Cohen said that there also are host of legal issues that need to be addressed—from open-records laws to liability questions.