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Key public-safety groups seek consensus for next-gen 911 direction, federal funding

12 Public Safety Organizations Join in NG911 coalition

Press Release August 25, 2020

A new coalition representing diverse public safety stakeholders and 9-1-1 professionals is urging Congress to pass legislation that enables a nationwide upgrade to Next Generation 9-1-1.

The Public Safety Next Generation 9-1-1 Coalition, comprised of stakeholders from every discipline within the public safety community including the fire service, emergency medical service, law enforcement, and 9-1-1 professionals, is committed to advancing legislation that enables a nationwide upgrade to Next Generation 9-1-1. The Coalition has united behind legislative principles that will address the needs and concerns of public safety.

Next Generation 9-1-1 will enable first responders and 9-1-1 professionals to utilize voice, text, data, and video to better respond to calls for emergency assistance in the way the public expects today. Congress should pass legislation that provides the resources needed to help local and state governments upgrade this essential critical infrastructure.

The Next Generation 9-1-1 Act of 2019, introduced by Representatives Anna Eshoo and John Shimkus in the House, and by Senators Amy Klobuchar and Catherine Cortez Masto in the Senate, is a foundation upon which the Public Safety Next Generation 9-1-1 Coalition seeks to build.

To ensure successful implementation of a much-needed nationwide upgrade, the Coalition is calling for the following principles to be incorporated as part of NG9-1-1 legislation:

• NG9-1-1 should be technologically and competitively neutral, and use commonly accepted standards that do not lead to proprietary solutions that hamper interoperability, make mutual aid between agencies less effective, limit choices, or increase costs. • Development of program requirements, grant guidance, application criteria, and rules regarding NG9-1-1 grants should be guided by an advisory board of public safety practitioners and 9-1-1 professionals. • Sufficient funding in the amount of $15 billion to ensure NG9-1-1 is deployed throughout the country in an effective, innovative, and secure manner and to enable NG9-1-1 implementation training nationwide. • The process for allocating funds to localities should be efficient, federal overhead costs should be minimized, and grant conditions should not be onerous or extraneous and should be targeted to achieve important objectives including interoperability and sustainability. • Cybersecurity of NG9-1-1 systems should be a primary consideration. • Incentives for increased efficiency of NG9-1-1 functions, including through shared technology and regional collaboration, should be included.

Leaders representing public safety organizations that are part of the coalition provided the following quotes:

Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Oakland County (MI), Vice President of Government Affairs of the Major County Sheriffs of America (MCSA): “This robust group of organizations which represent all aspects of the public safety community has come to consensus on what our country needs to upgrade, secure, and modernize our outdated and aging 9-1-1 infrastructure. The work done by this coalition will dramatically change and improve the way 9-1-1 operates every time someone calls for help in their time of need. We appreciate the work being done by Congress to ensure this legislation is passed in a thoughtful and timely manner.”

Chief Art Acevedo, Houston Police Department, President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA): “Our nation is in critical need of an upgrade to our 9-1-1 infrastructure and as part of the Public Safety Next Generation 9-1-1 Coalition, the Major Cities Chiefs Association has worked extensively with our public safety colleagues to develop legislative principles that provide the resources needed for a nationwide upgrade. Effective public safety communication is essential to the safety and security of our communities and first responders. Unfortunately, there are insufficient state and local funds to cover the cost of the much-needed upgrade. Through commonly accepted standards, incentives, and an informed approach to grant making, our first responders and 9-1-1 professionals will be better equipped to handle and respond to 21st century demands.”

Chief Richard Carrizzo, President and Chairman of the Board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC): “Next Generation 9-1-1 offers a great opportunity for local fire, EMS and law enforcement to better provide service to their communities. Because of the cost and scale of NG 9-1-1 deployment, we will require federal assistance. These principles provide for the scope required for a nationwide initiative, while ensuring the input of local first responders which are the end users of a NG 9-1-1 system.”

Chief Steven Casstevens, President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP): “The IACP joins public safety stakeholders across the country in calling for Congress to pass legislation that would provide the resources needed to upgrade 9-1-1 systems infrastructure, so that police and the rest of the public safety community can better serve the people we were sworn to protect. 9-1-1 systems are critical infrastructure, that desperately need upgrading to enhance interoperability and emergency response assistance.”

President Kyle L. Thornton of the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO): “This initiative will build, along with FirstNet, the interoperable framework EMS needs to meet the medical emergency challenges the country faces now and for the foreseeable future.”

Sheriff David Mahoney, Dane County (WI), President of the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA): “The Nation’s Sheriffs support NG9-1-1 legislation that allows us to save others while providing for a safer environment for First Responders nationwide by modernizing law enforcement communications. The ability to share voice, text, data and video between public safety and dispatch centers regardless of size or location will greatly enhance our ability to respond to events and improve lifesaving services.”

President Margie Moulin of the Association of Public Safety Communications Professionals (APCO): “9-1-1 professionals across the country would greatly benefit from Next Generation 9-1-1 technology to carry out their life-saving missions. We were pleased to collaborate with our partner public safety associations on legislative language that will best ensure that Next Generation 9-1-1 is implemented in an interoperable, competitive, innovative, and secure manner.”

About the Coalition The Public Safety Next Generation 9-1-1 Coalition, comprised of stakeholders from every discipline within the public safety community, is committed to advancing legislation to enable a nationwide upgrade to Next Generation 9-1-1.

CONTACT: Capt Mel Maier

(248) 431 – 1007

March 19, 2020

Written byDonny Jackson Urgent Communications

Representatives from 12 key public-safety organizations met last week in an effort to develop a consensus position about next-generation 911 (NG911) that would encourage Congress to provide federal funds supporting a transition from legacy systems to an IP-based 911 platform capable of supporting multimedia communications.

Conducted last Friday in Washington, D.C., the meeting was co-hosted by the Major County Sheriffs of America (MCSA) and the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA). During the meeting, the group—the Public Safety Leadership Group—discussed key elements that should be part of the NG 911 infrastructure platform, according to a press release about the meeting that was issued yesterday.

“All of the organizations acknowledged the need to move quickly so that Congress can act to fund this nationwide priority,” the press release states. Historically, public-safety legislation has a much greater chance of being passed by Congress when the first-responder community is able to reach consensus on its direction. A notable example was the public-safety advocacy efforts that resulted in the establishment of FirstNet in 2012.

Mel Maier, commander of the emergency-communications and operations division of the Oakland County (Mich.) Sheriff’s Office, said he will chair the working group that plans to meet weekly in an effort to reach consensus on critical aspects of potential NG911 legislation. In the coming months, the working group will present its recommendations to the Public Safety Leadership Group for approval.

“I think that this is going to be moving pretty rapidly,” Maier said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. We’re trying to get a lot of information together as quickly as possible and then remain in consensus mode. When we left [last Friday’s meeting], everybody was in lock step …  We were all on the same page about the core first principles of this.

“Our goal is to retain the consensus with legislation that is actually meaningful and has the funding available to make it happen.” In addition to the MCSA and the MCCA, the other 10 organizations participating in the meeting were officials from: International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), National Sheriffs Association (NSA), Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association (MFCA), Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO), Association of Public Safety Communications Officials, International (APCO), National Emergency Number Association (NENA), and the National Association of State 911 Administrators (NASNA). “Convening stakeholders last week was a necessary step as we collectively look to upgrade our nation’s 911 infrastructure,” MCCA President Art Acevedo said in a prepared statement. “Input from public-safety practitioners every step of the way will ensure NG 911 is effective, efficient and meets the needs of the communities we serve.”

MCSA President Peter J. Koutoujian echoed this sentiment. “We look forward to working with our public-safety partners to ensure an upgraded 911 infrastructure meets the needs of our agencies and communities and the demands of a modern society,” Koutoujian said in a prepared statement.

Public-safety sources have long identified the need to upgrade the 911 system, which is rooted in technology that was designed to serve emergency callers using voice-centric landline telephony technology, not the modern IP-based broadband services that can deliver voice, text, data, photo and video communications—often wirelessly. With citizens and first responders in the field having access to broadband multimedia, the inability for most 911 centers to support similar technology has been perceived as a limiting factor in some response efforts.

There is broad consensus within the public-safety community that federal funding is needed to implement NG911 in public-safety answering points (PSAPs) throughout the U.S. In fact, a federal cost study estimated that it would take $12 billion to deploy NG911 technology nationwide, although some have noted that the study was conducted before cloud-based 911 technologies began being adopted by PSAPs.

While the $12 billion funding figure has been included in proposed federal legislation, those bills have not gained much traction in Congress. In addition to funding, Maier outlined some core principles that the Public Safety Leadership Group would like to see included in future NG911 legislation:

  • Cybersecurity;

  • Open technology standards to support innovation and competition;

  • Funding for transitional training, so 911 personnel can develop the skills sets needed for NG911; and

  • Local control, with funding distributed “through public-safety advisory boards or other fair mechanisms,” Maier said.

“The group agreed on a number of principles for legislation to modernize our nation’s 911 infrastructure and the needed funding mechanisms to achieve this goal,” IAFC Past President Chief Jeff Johnson said in a prepared statement.

Sheriff Mike Bouchard, MSCA’s vice president of government affairs, agreed. “It was important to bring the broader voices of public safety leadership together into the NG 911 discussion,” Bouchard said in a prepared statement. “The dialogue was very productive, and I am pleased we agreed to move forward together on critical issues. There is more work to be done, but we have the right people at the table to complete the task at hand.”

Maier noted that representatives of the Public Safety Leadership Group do not believe that federal legislation should include language mandating the physical consolidation of PSAPs, but they would support measures that would incent PSAPs to voluntarily consolidate—physically or virtually—or share resources. Maier said that all participants in last week’s Public Safety Leadership Group meeting agreed that cybersecurity should be a priority in any NG911 legislation.

“The number-one thing that brought us together was cybersecurity,” Maier said. “The security aspect of the ESInet design itself—an IP network of networks, connected together—is a paramount concern of folks in the 911 sphere … When people are hooking these systems together, are they updating firmware? Are they updating software? Are they managing with active scanning of the system and monitoring the health of the system for cyberattacks?

“I could go into ransomware and denial-of-service attacks, but the fact is that next-gen 911 technologies are a target for terrorists … They try it now. They send these bursts of signals across these analog trunks, trying to shut stuff down. But with IP, it’s at the speed of light.” If secure, the NG911 platform promises to provide the 911 system with unprecedented flexibility that should be especially beneficial when an area is hit by a natural or man-made disaster, Maier said.

“It’s also about sharing resources when you need it in a disaster,” Maier said. “These next-gen networks lend themselves to successful redistribution of phone calls and movement of personnel from areas that are affected by natural disasters or other [incidents]. They’re built that way; they cascade that way automatically.

“That’s the thing that keeps that 911 caller on the phone safe, when they don’t even know that they just transferred to another call-taker, never losing connectivity. That’s my goal and that’s our goal as a team getting together on this—to find a way to do that for the public. Because we’re all public-safety professionals, and our goal has always been getting the best help possible to the person as quickly as possible.”

While the Public Safety Leadership Group members found many points of agreement, Beltway sources indicate that nationwide NG911 funding legislation faces several notable challenges, beginning with the fact that 911 historically has been funded at the state and local levels of government—not the federal level.

If Congress is convinced to provide federal funding for NG911, there are questions about how the money should be distributed, particularly in jurisdictions that already have allocated significant state and local money to deploy ESInets and other key components of NG911. Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Public Safety Leadership Group will be reaching a consensus on the technical implementation of NG911. NENA and APCO both released documents earlier this year that were designed to help public safety procure NG911 systems, but the two organizations suggest very different approaches to the task. For instance, numerous references to the NENA i3 standard were featured throughout the NENA procurement document, while the i3 standard was barely mentioned in objectives-based APCO guidelines.

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