PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Points) dedicated to handling calls to police, fire stations and ambulance services deal with life threatening emergencies every day. It’s an environment in which any amount of unplanned system downtime can have catastrophic consequences, so I’m pleased to see that they are steadily upgrading their technology to better perform under stress according to recent research we conducted.

In our recently published 4th Annual PSAP Survey we asked 573 public safety professionals across North America about their viewpoints on topics such as call volumes, Next-Generation 9-1-1 migration, staffing, virtualization technologies, system outages and more. The results reveal trends consistent with our previous surveys and some new insights. Here are some compelling takeaways:

  • Adoption of NG9-1-1 is increasing steadily—In our 2012 survey, just 47% of respondents had NG9-1-1 underway or on the radar. Just four years later, that number has rocketed to 76%, with greatest adoption among PSAPs serving large populations. Overall, 49% of PSAPs forecast implementation in the next 12 months.
  • Payoff of cloud and virtualization is unclear—Although enterprises have largely adopted these technologies, neither is universally trusted in the high-stakes PSAP environment. Our survey reports that 67% of respondents have no cloud plans at all; among those who do, only about a quarter (24%) trust the cloud for critical applications. Virtualization is gradually gaining traction, yet 40% of PSAPs have no plans to virtualize.  Those implementing virtualization often enable it for critical applications, but 62% still experience downtime events exceeding 15 minutes.
  • Unplanned system downtime persists—Computer and application outages are a major concern in PSAPs of all sizes, with nearly half reporting two or more incidents in the last 12 months. The survey lists some popular mitigation techniques that perform poorly in the real world.  On the bright side, 70% of those using high availability software or clusters kept downtime incidents to one or even zero per year. And 37% of PSAPs depending on fault-tolerant servers survived the year without any downtime at all.
  • Everyone’s on top of disaster preparedness— 82% of responding PSAPs have a formal disaster recovery and contingency plan for a catastrophic outage, generally involving standby or backup PSAP locations. As you’d expect, sites serving the largest populations have the most rigorous recovery plans.

For PSAPs contemplating next steps toward improving service availability, my recommendation would be that they consider these two observations in light of the survey results.

  • In a changing call center landscape, most PSAPs have their eyes on the ball—As the public abandons landlines in favor of technologies from mobiles phone to VOIP, the large majority of PSAPs have NG9-1-1 migration clearly in view. An even larger fraction is deploying various disaster recovery techniques to stay ahead of threats—whether natural or malicious.  Those PSAPs that are overlooking such issues will fall behind community expectations.
  • We can reduce outages—Even with such a confusing variety of approaches, some PSAPs manage to slash their downtime. Among the best results come from fault-tolerant servers and high availability software, areas Stratus knows well. Other methods often land squarely in the pile of “not good enough”.

With our commitment to learn what works best for the public safety sphere, this survey points to areas where PSAPs are doing exceptionally well and others where there’s room for improvement.  Take a look at the complete survey yourself.  As a leader in public safety infrastructure, we’d like to share our best practices and expertise and help you address your organization’s challenges with unplanned system downtime.