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Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

John Oliver recently covered the myriad of problems the emergency response community faces.  Although we are excited to see 911 getting coverage in the headlines, we couldn't help but feel we should address some of the points made in the video. Our very own Jerry Eisner, Director of Public Safety took John to task and outlined how to get our industry back on track:

The issues raised by John Oliver were mostly directly on target.  Our industry is facing budget issues caused by a number of factors including: lower landline usage which brought in higher surcharge revenue, the cost of running a legacy system while building a Next Generation network, and increased call volumes.  Diversion of surcharge funds has been an issue for many years as State governments are also faced with revenue challenges.

Several points made during the segment have been dealt with.  Text to 9-1-1 technology was developed and put into place in 2014.  There are mechanisms that can allow a text message to be received by a 9-1-1 call center that require no additional equipment or networking costs. Unfortunately, not every State or PSAP has chosen to deploy this technology.

Much of the time was spent on locating a 9-1-1 caller.  When a 9-1-1 call is made on a cell phone, the antenna face of the cell site is used to determine the location appropriate call center.  Due to the nature of radio signals and cell site loading, the cell site handling your call may not always be the one that is associated with the right call center.  This is what happened with the Shandell Anderson call, where the call was routed to an adjacent County who’s map stopped at the County line, feet from where the accident occurred.  The segment did touch on the work being done voluntarily by agreement between the four major carriers, the FCC, and APCO and NENA.  This effort resulted in the concept of NEAD, a National Emergency Address Database.  This database will include the location of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth access points, including not only the street address, but the floor of the building the Access Point is located on.  In addition to the Access Point data, the agreed upon FCC Order will also utilize the ability to measure the barometric pressure of the phone at the time of the call.  This will allow first responders to enter a building and compare the pressure at their location with the reported pressure.  Uncompensated barometric pressure is directly related to elevation.  The higher you are, the lower the pressure measurement.

Finally, the legacy system that has been serving the nation for forty years does work.  It works 300 million times a year.  9-1-1 call centers routinely accept and transfer calls between each other without any technological impediment.  As we move towards Next Generation 9-1-1, great care and immense efforts have been devoted to building and testing Standards that will ensure the reliability and interoperability that we depend on today, can and will be built tomorrow.

As John stated, it has to work.

- Jerry Eisner - Director of Public Safety, RedSky Technologies

Connect with Jerry on LinkedIn to read more of his articles and insight on our industry: linkedin.com/in/jerryeisner