Everybody is texting these days. Teenagers, soccer moms, business people, and even grandparents have jumped on the bandwagon, sending more text messages, photos and videos than ever before. In fact, according to a 2011 Pew Internet survey, “Americans and Text Messaging,” 73 percent of cell phone users text, and nearly one-third of them would rather text than talk. With texting on the rise, it’s inevitable that 9-1-1- technology must evolve to meet the needs of today’s mobile citizens. That’s what Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) is all about.
NG9-1-1 is a national initiative that aims to update and improve emergency communications services. The end goal is to upgrade the country’s 9-1-1 infrastructure so that the public can not only call, but also transmit text, video, photos, and more to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). In turn, the PSAP will be able to process the data, transmit it as necessary, and get it out to first responders. Unlike today’s system, the new infrastructure will also support the transmission of calls and information across county and state lines. These enhanced capabilities will be instrumental in increasing public safety by helping law enforcement, firefighters, EMTs, and other first responders get better information about the situations they face in the field.
While migrating your PSAP to NG9-1-1 may seem overwhelming at first, proper planning can help ensure a smooth and manageable transition. Give careful upfront consideration to all your technology needs — ESInet, CTI software, CAD systems, mobile data networks, TDD software, and more. Think about how you will fund your NG9-1-1 system. Explore potential liability issues. Create a public education plan. And figure out the best way to protect your NG9-1-1 solution against downtime that could lead to tragic consequences. Looking for practical advice on how to successfully move your PSAP to NG9-1-1? Download our informative white paper, “What You Need to Know About Migrating to Next Generation 9-1-1 Technology,” to learn more.
Uptime for Public Saftety Answering Point (PSAP) applications is critical for a multitude of reasons. Downtime causes slower emergency response times, impacts the ability of computer systems to capture and disseminate vital information, jeopardizes the safety of first responders when location history and fire inspection data is not available, harms public perception and reputation of your department, and even opens the department up to potential lawsuits.
Every one of those reasons is a great one to protect your PSAP applications from downtime, especially if you are already considering a technology upgrade for legacy software or are about to publish an RFP for updating your PSAP operations.
There is a better reason, though, for making sure your 9-1-1 system is on 24/7/365.
Odds are, you live in the same community in which you work. Your family and your closest friends are among the people you are charged to protect. You want the quickest response possible from emergency responders who have the best? information and technology behind them.
Uptime for your PSAP applications means peace of mind for you that your family and your neighbors are protected around the clock.
Stratus’ newest ebook details different strategies to improve the availability of mission-critical Public Safety applications and minimize the possibility of disruptions caused by server failure. It describes the advantages and disadvantages of dedicated servers, cluster technology, virtualization, high availability and fault-tolerance. Download it now to learn why 99% system uptime is not good enough for PSAP applications, what technologies can increase system uptime, and what technologies best fit for your specific environment.
Anyone in the public safety sector will tell you that the key to a safe neighborhood and a successful first-response system is teamwork. Everyone is essential. For example, even on one small car fire, the person who calls 9-1-1; the dispatch operator who answers the phone and sends the proper emergency personnel; the fire engine driver who navigates the truck safely through crowded streets; the firefighters who extinguish the blaze; the policemen who keep onlookers at a safe distance; the emergency medical technicians and paramedics who triage patients and get them to the hospital; and then the nurses , doctors and technicians in the hospital that treat victims, are all critical to keeping the public safe.
The same is true of the equipment. Every piece of the line is essential. The phone lines connect the 9-1-1 caller to the dispatcher and then the dispatcher to the fire station. All of the firefighters gear must work, along with the truck, the hydrant, and the hoses. The ambulance crew, similarly, must be fully-equipped and transportable. There is little room for error when lives and property are at stake.
About that equipment. First responder organizations rely on top-of-the-line tools. Have you ever seen a firefighter haul out a green garden hose, struggling to untangle the kinks, in an effort to put out a fire? Have you ever seen a policeman take control of a robbery situation using a squirt gun? Have you ever seen a lifeguard swim to a victim and instead of tossing them a buoy, fitted them with floaties? No, and you won’t. Ever.
In public safety, there is no substituting the right tools to get the job done. Every piece is essential, and it must work exactly as designed, every single time.
Or, in the case of the server that supports the public safety applications, every single second.
St. Charles County Department of Dispatch and Alarm is a great example of a department that looked beyond the fire trucks, police cars and ambulances to find vulnerabilities that could possibly hurt public safety performance and put their citizens in danger. They implemented a highly reliable computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system built on Stratus® ftServer® systems and TriTech Software Systems’ VisiCAD™ software to ensure uninterrupted performance of their dispatch software. 40,000 service calls come through the dispatch a year, and every single one could be life-saving. TriTech’s VisiCAD software is flexible enough to service their 16 ambulances and 34 fire stations, encompassing a total of 120 mobile units. VisiCAD is dymanic enough to locate the closest response team to the accident, while monitoring backup vehicles should they be needed.
The ftServers running the Computer Aided Dispatch system, as well as storing all of the electronic information of the calls, ensure the systems have unparalleled uptime. St. Charles County IT Manager Travis Hill said they have been running their original ftserver system for more than nine years without any server downtime. That means nice years of proactive protection for the citizens of St. Charles County.
To find out more about why St. Charles County specifically chose VisiCAD software on ftServers, click here to read the case study.
Saturday’s 911-system outage in the District of Columia highlights the necessity for fault tolerant systems running mission-critical applications. Due to a PEPCO power outage to the call site on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, citizens could not reach EMS personnel from 1:53 to 2:16 p.m. Although traditional and social media channels did their best to get the word out about alternate numbers, all 617,996 citizens of the District were put at risk. Perhaps nothing is more critical to a city than public safety systems like EMS, Fire and Police response.
@AriAnkhNeferet from Twitter said it best, “Someone please explain to me how it’s possible that 911 is experiencing a power outage?! Come on DC. we have to do better.”
She is right – the most mission critical systems and applications shouldn’t be subject to outages, power or otherwise. Backup systems, fault tolerant servers, and disaster recovery solutions are all possible ways to make your EMS system safer for the community. Servers wired for two distinct power sources that come from separate power grids, like our ftServers, are an easy way to guard against power outages. Live data replication and split-site capabilities, two features of our Avance high availability software, are two other ways to ensure your systems are protected.
Besides power failures, server crashes, memory failures, disk drive failures and a countless number of other technical problems can crash servers much more often. Saturday’s power outage demonstrates what could happen if a public safety system goes down for any number of reasons, and reinforces that steps need to be taken to protect systems from more normal/frequent occurrences.
When lives are at stake, you cannot be too careful. However, @AriAnkhNeferet’s tweet shows that something else is at stake: reputation. What happens when if public loses trust in the EMS system to respond? A large Metro can get 30,000 9-1-1 calls per day. That would mean the 20+ minute outage could have affected 400+ 9-1-1 calls, leaving citizens stranded and the city’s first line of defense helpless to respond.
If you run life-saving systems, it might be best to run through some worst-case scenarios on your existing architecture. What happens when a power failure happens in your call center? What happens when a server has a hardware failure? What is your disaster recovery plan in the case of an earthquake, fire, or flood? Are there dedicated resources available 24-hours in the case of a failure?
To learn how Stratus can help you with these and other public safety technology issues, click here to download more information.