Emergency Call Groups Aim to Update Standards, Systems

Following the creation of new emergency call standards and a cross-continental collaboration, people in Europe and North America could benefit from a more efficient, interconnected emergency response system.

Through a collaboration with the European Emergency Number Association (EENA), the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) is seeking to set a new emergency call framework to provide better service to the public.

The two groups are creating new standards that will transition all associated countries to a new setup, “Next Generation 9-1-1,” which will allow callers to provide more information to emergency call centers and will create more efficient communication between centers.

“The main purpose of all of this is to provide the best service available to the American public in order to provide service in a more timely fashion, being able to move information associated with that 9-1-1 call to field responders and beyond field responders—so emergency rooms, etc.—in a very timely and efficient manner,” NENA CEO Brian Fontes said.

By switching to new technology, people calling in emergencies will be able to share information via voice call, text, video, and photo—an especially helpful tool as most individuals call from mobile devices. Currently, only about 15 percent of call centers can receive texts, while none can receive video or photo, Fontes said. Callers will also be able to more easily share medical information that can be directed to first responders and healthcare facilities.

“It allows the consumer to use the technology that they have at their fingertips to be able to provide information other than just voice to that 9-1-1 professional when they dial that 9-1-1 number,” Fontes said. “So for an example, if you are calling 9-1-1, and you’re reporting an incident, you may be able to take a picture or a video of the license plate or people running form a scene. Or if you’re not sure of your exact location, you may do a video of where you’re located, and through that video, experts may be able to detect your location.”

Secondly, the new technology will allow call centers in a certain area to share information databases, saving time and money, and calls will be routed based on a caller’s location rather than their communication provider, reducing the time spent connecting the caller with the correct local center. In addition, the interconnectivity will allow calls to be rerouted if a call center is down due to an emergency, such as a hurricane or earthquake.

“And that’s what we’re working toward is to ensure that 9-1-1 centers across the country will be able to enter the 21st century technology with Next Generation 9-1-1,” Fontes said.

NENA has been working on creating these new standards since 2011, and currently the work is in its third revision as technology evolves. By working with EENA, the standards will apply across the U.S., Canada, and Europe, though other countries like Mexico and Australia are likewise looking to the standards. Once the Next Generation 9-1-1 system is deployed, different emergency systems across states and countries will be able to more easily share information and data.

“The development of Next Generation 112 and 9-1-1 systems couldn’t have happened without strong standards cooperation across the Atlantic,” EENA Executive Director Gary Machado said in a press release. “EENA is thrilled to renew our efforts around global standardization with NENA.”

Currently, two U.S. senators have filed draft legislation to dedicate federal funding to Next Generation 9-1-1, which could help NENA deploy the system across the states by the early 2020s, though several states like Vermont and Maine already offer some next-generation services.


Alex Beall

By Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. MORE

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