The current 911 system does not support text or multimedia messaging, and lacks the capability to interconnect with other systems and databases. Imagine how it can be revolutionized with the use of smartphones. The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) is carrying out a movement to move to a next-generation 911 system based on modern internet protocol-based network that can take advantage of capabilities such as text, multimedia and video messaging. Such a network requires interoperatability between different vendors so people would not be locked in with just one vendor.
This system can especially be beneficial for deaf and hard-of-hearing people who can reach 911 without having any special devices. Also, it can be used as a defibrillator that could automatically call 911 during medical emergencies. Also, public safety answering points can be enabled to transfer calls and activate alternative routing to share the burden during an emergency or when PSAPs are closed by disasters such as hurricanes and floods.
The transition to this system will not be easy. States and regions will have to work through technology standards, the process of transition, governance and funding. The government will have to frame policies so that the system can be launched uniformly across the country.
Many States in the US are working across these lines. Costs need to be identified for telecom infrastructure to be framed and deployed. Overall, it will be beneficial for the community in emergency control, disaster management and even for reporting suspicious criminal and terrorist activities to law enforcement agencies through interconnected networks.
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