When Your “backup” fails..


Last month a close associate of mine experienced two outages at one of his PSAP’s. The first event lasted over three hours, the second 15 minutes. All 9-1-1 calls were rerouted.

The PSAP in question is served by two circuits. Supposedly physically diverse. During the conversion to IP in 2011, each circuit was physically routed into the PSAP facility in a manner to ensure diversity.

This latest outage revealed that, in the providers central office, both circuits connected to the same equipment rack, same shelf and same card. Back in 2013 he had a similar scenario, only then the outage took down six PSAP’s. All circuits, primary and backup, terminated onto a single card. This sounds impossible, but I have read the official ‘Outage Report’.

An important fact- they spent tens of thousands of dollars throughout their county in ‘outside plant’ construction costs, with their service provider, to make sure there was physical diversity into the PSAP.

He also educated me on a fact he recently learned- In 2013 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued the Derecho Report. This was in response to major storms and 9-1-1 outages in the midwest. The report listed a number of findings regarding 9-1-1 providers. Here is a quote from that document: “In most cases, the 9-1-1 and other problems could and would have been avoided if providers had followed industry best practices and available guidance.”

Derecho Report and Recommendations

This report resulted in the FCC issuing an Order:

FCC Order to Improve Reliability       Note -Appendix B- Part 12 Final Rules

The bottom line- as a customer you can request an audit, to include the physical path of  your 9-1-1 circuits. Here in Palm Beach County we now have an audit in progress.

Remember- it does not matter how big your circuits are  or how many you have (2, 3). When it comes to the last mile, the connection from the PSAP to the service provider, it is a PHYSICAL world.

A great way to address this issue is to contract with two providers. But only if they do not share the same telco facilities.

We are transitioning to a new world in 9-1-1. Like it or not, we occasionally will need to become more actively involved in order to understand how services are provided.


Text to 9-1-1 and Language Translation




In certain areas of the United States there are large segments of the local population that do not speak English.

In 9-1-1 Call Centers (PSAP’s) today, it is common practice to have a third party language translation service under contract. For example, a 9-1-1 call is received and the call taker does not speak Spanish. It is a simple process to add a Spanish speaking translator to the 9-1-1 call.

Most translation firms offer this service for numerous languages.

We recently held a meeting with Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to discuss the implementation of Text to 9-1-1 on a regional basis. Paul McLaren, of West Safety Services (formerly Intrado) provided a technical overview. I was surprised to learn that -Today- it is not possible to ‘bridge in’ a third party translation service to a 9-1-1 text ( or any third party). There were a number of reasons identified, technical limitations, security, etc.

Here in South Florida, launching an ‘English-Only’ 9-1-1 Text service will need careful consideration and approval.

What would happen if you were working a shift in a 9-1-1 center and, on your screen, you receive a text in a foreign language?

If you have plans to move forward with a Text to 9-1-1 solution in your area, it will be important, in today’s scenario, to educate the public on language availability. You also need an emergency ‘contingency plan’.

Text can certainly be a useful tool, it is important that we understand all of the facts prior to implementation.


No Funded Plan for NextGen 9-1-1 in Your State?


In the perfect world there is a plan and approved funding for a NextGen ESInet Emergency Services IP Network in your State (disclaimer.. this is my personal opinion). This will serve as the public safety broadband network for all of the 911 centers (PSAPs). There is local control of the PSAPs, the state has simply removed a major technical hurdle by providing the ESInet backbone as a utility.

This is a great scenario…

With over 30 ‘home rule’ states – the state constitution grants cities, municipalities, and/or counties the ability to pass laws to govern themselves as they see fit (decentralized authority)- it can be challenging to establish a funded statewide 9-1-1 initiative.

In many counties across the US, staff responsible for 9-1-1 are maxed out. They have full time jobs, often serving in an Emergency Management, Police or Fire Rescue position, maybe even managing the PSAP(s). Strategic planning for Next Generation 9-1-1, securing funding and contracting for technical expertise at the local level represents a major undertaking.

SO.. if you are the responsible party at the county level, with no State initiative on the horizon, what do you do?  We are starting to see a grassroots movement where local counties are working together. In Illinois, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania, to name a few,  counties are teaming together to adopt a regional model, migrating to an IP based network with hosted (centralized) call processing. A great first step.

This is not wasted effort, as it lays the foundation for connecting to a full ESInet solution at a future date.

Here in Florida, there are a large number of counties who have begun to ‘self organize’, holding regular meetings to look at options.

Laurie Flaherty,  National 911 Program Coordinator, and her team have put together an annual report that provides an overall view of what is happening nationwide:

National 911 Data