Next Generation 911: Looking into the past, present and beyond

NG-911 is coming to every community and understanding how it came to be is important to exploring its future impact on EMS

By Todd J. LeDuc

After much discussion and many years of planning, in 1968 the U.S. adopted a singular emergency communications number to expedite reaching emergency services. States subsequently adopted this 911 application during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Today’s 911 system allows for primarily only voice calls and Teletype calls servicing persons who are deaf or hearing impaired. Only minimal data can be delivered with the 911 calls, such as a subscriber name, automatic number identification and address/automatic location identification or enhanced 911.

NG-911 leverages modern technology easily and widely available in smartphones. (Image National 911 Program)
NG-911 leverages modern technology easily and widely available in smartphones. (Image National 911 Program)

NG-911 planning and implementation

Initial planning for Next Generation 911 (NG-911) started in 2000 and NG-911 expectations were published in 2001 as National Emergency Number Association (NENA) documents. NENA’s NG-911 project implementation began in 2003 and continues with the ultimate vision of establishing the NG-911 architecture and operations standards.

NG-911 allows for a re-engineering of available technologies, combining the notification of emergency incidents and transmittal of technological information to responders. Imagine as close as possible real “live feeds” streaming through multiple technologies, not limited by technology infrastructure.

We have seen how social media has driven information sharing very early in any incident – train derailments of national importance, regional civil unrest, or local news of in-custody death. This same “power at the speed of thought” can be harnessed and transmitted to emergency responders through utilization of NG-911.

Building NG-911

The 911 Improvement Act of 2008 required IP-enabled voice service providers to provide 911 service and directs the Federal Communications Commission to facilitate these services. The Act also requires the development of a national plan for migrating to a national IP-enabled emergency network.

The NG-911 system aims at updating the 911 service infrastructure in the United States and Canada to improve public emergency communications services in a wireless mobile society. The NG-911 environment will enable voice, text, or video emergency “calls” from any communications device via IP-based networks. Additionally, NG-911 systems will be able to receive data from personal safety devices, medical alert systems, and sensors of various types.

The infrastructure envisioned by the NG-911 project will support national internetworking of 911 services, as well as transfer of emergency calls to other Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP), including accompanying data. Perhaps, even more landscape changing for all-hazards management is that the PSAP will be able to issue emergency alerts to wireless devices in an area via voice or text message, and to highway alert systems.

Everyday applications for NG-911

Examples of the practicality of NG-911 may include common scenarios of highway transportation accidents where data can be received from Advanced Automatic Collision Notification devices in vehicles, transmission of short audio recordings, video of an incident and GPS coordinates for the incident. Furthermore, the NG-911 PSAP will be able to push a message to all wireless and mobile devices that an accident has occurred with location and notification to avoid the incident area.

Technology has and will continue to drive many processes in the EMS and fire service from prevention to preparation to response to operations to mitigation. The NG-911 technology will allow the globalization of information and mobile devices and data to provide more timely and accurate information to emergency response systems. Additionally, NG-911 systems will allow for efficient mass notification/communications systems to mobile users.

About the Author

Todd J. LeDuc, MS, CFO, CEM, MIFirE is division chief of health and safety and accreditation for Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue a 750 internationally accredited metro department in Broward County, FL. Chief LeDuc is a 25 year veteran of the department. He is Secretary of the International Association of Fire Chief’s Safety, Health & Survival Section. He has conducted master and strategic plans, department evaluations and consolidation studies in over twenty states. He is a peer reviewer for peer credentialing and agency accreditation, has published extensively on fire service topics and is a frequent conference presenter. He received the 2013 IAFC Gary Briese Safety Performance Award; the 2013 Center for Public Safety Excellence Ambassador of the Year; and in 2015 safety leadership award by Local 4321 of the International Association of Firefighters. He can be reached at

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