Next-generation 911 (NG911) will have significant operational implications for 911 centers, requiring new personnel skill sets to leverage the platform’s technological functionality and federal resources to fund the NG911 transition nationwide, according to the Project 43 report from the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO).

Released during APCO 2017 in Denver,  the 114-page Project 43 report highlights some of the capabilities and challenges associated with NG911, which is an IP-based broadband platform “that’s going to lead to a complete shift in the way that PSAPs operate,” according to Jeff Cohen, APCO’s chief counsel and director of government relations.

“We felt that we should try to help all shareholders—from public-safety telecommunicators, 911 authorities, elected officials and others in the public-safety community—not only better leverage the existing technologies that are there now but prepare for what’s to come,” Cohen said during a Project 43 presentation delivered during a session at APCO 2017.

While existing 911 systems let emergency callers seek first-responder help via a voice call—and some support text-to-911 services—NG911 also promises to support the submission of photos, video and data to a 911 center from both humans and sensors, such as those that expected to be part of smart-cities initiatives.

With this in mind, APCO’s Project 43 report calls for the adoption of a common definition for NG911 as “a secure, nationwide, interoperable, standards-based, all-IP emergency-communications infrastructure enabling end-to-end transmission of all types of data, including voice and multimedia communications from the public to an Emergency Communications Center.”

Emergency Communications Center (ECC) is a new name for “public-safety answering point” (PSAP) that is designed to reflect 911 centers’ expanded role as the “nerve center” for emergency communications, Cohen said. For similar reasons, the Project 43 report calls for the term “dispatcher” to be replaced by “public-safety telecommunicator.”

The Project 43 report examines the impact of broadband on 911 in six key areas: operations, governance, cybersecurity, technology, training and workforce

A key component of the governance portion of the Project 43 report is support for federal action in the 911 space—specifically funding from Congress to help cash-strapped PSAPs/ECCs make the transition from legacy systems to NG911. NG911 legislation has been drafted, but a bill has not been introduced formally, in part because no determination has been made about the amount of funding to include.

Although some state and local areas have made notable progress toward achieving NG911 functionality, APCO advocates a one-time federal funding program that is designed to ensure that NG911 can be implemented nationwide, Cohen said.

“We certainly need a substantial grant program from Congress to do that initial forklift,” he said. “Right now, 911—for the most part—is locked in to that old, old technology, and we need to elevate it—through that one-time forklift—just to get us on par with what every citizen can do right now.”