Group pushes IP enhancements for 911 system

The nation's 911 emergency call systems urgently need to be upgraded to handle new technologies, according to recommendations in a new report from the National Emergency Number Association.

The report was written by the association's e-911 program, which is a group that includes vendors, public safety experts and nonprofit organizations, along with the association itself. The association represents 7,000 state and local dispatch centers.

The e-911 program's goal is to address the challenges of developing technologies such as Voice over Internet Protocol, telematics, satellite phones and instant and text messaging.

The 911 system, set up 30 years ago, needs a new "system of systems," IP-enabled national blueprint to keep up with new IT devices, the report said.

"The 911 system of today has been stretched to its limit due to the advancement of modern communications technology, and is ill-equipped to handle calls from and take advantage of new and future communications technologies," Robert Cobb, program manager for the report, said in a news release this week.

The report urges making the 911 system integrated with not just wired telephones and cell phones, but also computers, telematics devices in cars and personal digitized assistants, among other IP devices.

"To respond to the changing communications landscape, it is apparent that there is a critical need for an IP-enabled, next-generation 911, one that is able to adapt rapidly to new technology and support new communications devices," the report said.

Vendors participating in the e-911 program include America Online Inc. of Dulles, Va.; AT&T Corp; Cingular Wireless LLC of Atlanta; Level 3 Communications of Broomfield, Colo.; MCI LLC of Ashburn, Va.; Motorola Inc. of Schaumberg, Ill.; NeuStar Inc. of Sterling, Va.; OnStar Corp. of Detroit, Mich.; Sprint Nextel Corp. of Reston, Va.; TeleCommunications Systems Inc. of Annapolis, Md.; Verizon Communications Inc. of New York City; and Vonage Holdings Corp. of Holmdel, N.J.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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