Building a Next Gen Emergency Service for our Next Gen

June 15, 2022

Next Generation 9-1-1 and 112 plan to revolutionize the way telecommunicators communicate with first responders and the general public during an emergency. But the Next Gen Public Safety industry isn’t simply about improving technology to provide greater situational awareness and more efficient sharing of information, it’s about protecting of our future generations too. It’s Next Gen, for our Next Gen, and here’s why.

Safer, more resilient communities

Over a decade ago I joined a Fire Dept as paid-on-call. It was a job I hadn’t previously considered since I was teaching the Fire Recruits Phys.Ed at the time. But the Training Officer suggested I give it some serious thought…he explained it was a way to support and protect our community, help people in need, challenge myself by learning new skills, not to mention the camaraderie and extended family I’d become part of. All were significant and very valid reasons for joining, but the biggest motivational factors were my children, who were babies at the time. Contributing to my community meant I was also helping them, building a safer and more supported community, and on a larger scale, that’s exactly the goal for NG9-1-1 and NG112.

Meeting technology expectations

Children today are the adults of tomorrow, and rightly or wrongly, digital devices such as smart phones, tablets, laptops, and home assistants are their daily normal. It’s how many teens communicate with each other, and they will naturally expect any emergency service to meet this technological expectation. 

Brian Fontes, CEO of National Emergency Number Association also said: "Consumers expect to be able to communicate with 9-1-1 in much the same way as they communicate with each other through their smartphones.”

Our kids also watch the Hollywood movies which love to perpetuate the idea of high-tech capabilities, such as Emergency Responders knowing exactly where you are…. E.g. has anyone watched The Call? So it’s imperative the 9-1-1 architecture in real life keeps pace.

Device ownership in children is increasing

As of 2019 it’s estimated that just over half of children in the United States, 53%, now own a smartphone by the age of 11. And 84% of teenagers have their own phone. This statistic is only going to increase as technology becomes more widespread and society becomes ever more mobile. World-wide mobile ownership is set to hit 7 billion ( in the next couple of years, until eventually almost everyone will communicate through a mobile device! We need to ensure our emergency number networks can support this demand and expectation. 

Protecting vulnerable callers

Many emergency services are still only reachable through a voice call, and younger children, because of their age, may not be able to express themselves as well as an adult, meaning the call might take longer as a consequence. Young callers may not know their own address or phone number, so it’s critical dispatchers, alongside providing guidance and reassurance, are able to discern this information quickly, with the data being provided as the call is answered.

With general increases in calls to 9-1-1, and more commonplace incidences of parental overdoses and domestic violence, more children will continue to call 9-1-1 and it’s crucial the system works for them.

In the following video a 4-year-old boy called 9-1-1 as his mom lay unconscious on the floor. Whilst the outcome was a good one, it took Dispatch 15 minutes to locate the caller. 15 minutes is a long time…too long:

Children and technology are becoming more intertwined, and with so many layers of data being exchanged, it’s imperative the 9-1-1 call process, for both child and 9-1-1 dispatcher/operator, is as efficient and error free as possible. 

As always “For a Responder to help you, they first have to find you.” And since many State and Provincial 9-1-1 websites still emphasize children need to know their name, parent’s name, telephone number, and most importantly their own address, we still have work to do.

Next Gen 9-1-1/ 112 plans to enhance and improve an essential service, creating an information rich Public Safety ecosystem, but there’s an assumption NG9-1-1 location is better than E9-1-1, and as we’ve discussed previously this isn’t the case, and we are not yet doing a proper job for the citizens of tomorrow. 

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