911, A Basic Overview
911, A Basic Overview
You and your family are driving to Meridian with plans to enjoy an evening together with a nice supper and a movie. Along the way, a deer runs in front of the car and despite your best efforts, you hit the deer with your car causing you to wreck. You and several of your family members are seriously injured. What do you do? From a very young age, we teach our children a very important lesson in times of emergencies:
So, what happens when you “DIAL 911”?
Miss. Code Ann. § 19-5-301
“The Legislature finds and declares it to be in the public interest to reduce the time required for a citizen to request and receive emergency aid… Establishment of a uniform emergency number is a matter of concern and interest to all citizens of the state.”
The driving force behind any 911 system must be the safety and well being of the citizens who reside or are temporarily in the area covered by the system. Dialing 911 has become the universal means to obtain help in an emergency situation. Since citizens rely on the 911 system to receive help in times of need, it is imperative that the jurisdiction provides the best system it can to help its citizens. So what are the components of the 911 system, and how do they work together to accomplish the goals of timely and effective response to emergencies?
The 911 system starts when an emergency occurs. The emergency could be a citizen needing a law enforcement officer. It could be a citizen’s home that is on fire and in need of one of the 12 Volunteer Fire Departments in the county. A citizen could have a medical need that requires an ambulance. A motor vehicle accident with injuries usually requires some response from all disciplines within the emergency response community. The system ends when the need has been met by an effective response.
For the system to work as needed:
(1) the citizen must have an easy and convenient way to activate it;
(2) the jurisdiction must have a PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) that can receive the call;
(3) the 911 call takers (i.e., telecommunicators) must be able to gather the necessary information about the nature, location, and other circumstances of the call to be able to dispatch the appropriate agency to the right location with the right equipment to effectively meet the need;
(4) and, finally, the various disciplines involved in the emergency response community must be able to find the citizen in need and have the training and equipment necessary to properly evaluate the circumstances and render the appropriate care.
Today there are many ways for a citizen to activate the 911 system. A traditional hard-line phone, a cell phone, VOIP phones, and other ways such as subscription based services that can be alerted remotely and then they will activate the 911 system if needed. All of these methods rely on the same basic 911 system to get help to the citizen in need.
This is when the system gets a little complicated. How does the telecommunicator know where you are? Can the citizen accurately describe to the telecommunicator their location? Are they even able to speak at all? One of the fundamental parts of the 911 system is the 911 address:
Miss. Code Ann. § 19-5-301
The Legislature also finds and declares it to be in the public interest to reduce the time required for a citizen to request and receive emergency aid, by requiring all owners and renters of residences, buildings and structures to obtain a 911 address from the county.
Several years ago, Kemper County implemented a 911 addressing system. Today all structures in the county should have a 911 address associated with it.
If the 911 call is generated from a hard-line phone, the telephone system will know the number that the call was made from, referred to as ANI-Automatic Number Identification. It will also provide the physical (i.e., 911) address for the structure the phone is registered to. This is referred to as ALI-Automatic Location Identification. And finally, the phone system will provide the telecommunicator with the emergency services (law, fire, & EMS) that are responsible for that location via the ESN-Emergency Services Number. The ESN identifies the particular fire department or law enforcement agency that should respond to that location. So there are basically three pieces of information the telecommunicator has for a hard-line 911 phone call: ANI, ALI, and ESN. This is called a Fully Enhanced 911 system. There are other levels of a 911 system that do not provide all three pieces of data for the telecommunicator, i.e. Basic 911 will only provide ANI to the telecommunicator. The citizen must be able to tell the telecommunicator where they are.
A cell phone call is quite another story since the phone is not tied to a particular location as is a hard-line phone. 70-80% of all 911 calls come from cell phones. The phone system will still provide ANI but the location information is now called GPS ALI since it must be based on the current location of the phone. Federal law requires that cell phones know where they are within certain parameters. The accuracy of that location depends on the type of phone, number of cell towers, weather conditions, access to Wi-Fi hotspots, and other criteria some of which the cell provider has no control over. The phone generates the GPS ALI but the local jurisdiction’s PSAP must be able to receive and disseminate the information to the telecommunicator in a usable manner. This system also comes in different levels of capabilities: Wireless Phase 0, WP1, and WP2. In a WP0 system, a cellular 911 caller will get a 911 telecommunicator and then must provide all location data themselves. A WP1 system will provide the telecommunicator with the cell tower address the call is coming from. Finally, the WP2 system can use the GPS ALI data generated by the handset to locate the caller on a map at the PSAP. This location information is then used by the PSAP to also indentify the ESN.
Once the telecommunicator receives the call and has the correct information, they dispatch the appropriate emergency response agency or agencies as the case may be. This is done primarily through radio communications. Today, though, we are seeing the use of text messaging and other methods to disseminate information to emergency response agencies. Once the message is delivered to the response agency, it is up to that agency to respond in a timely and efficient manner.
So where does Kemper County fit in the level of capabilities of our 911 system? On June 3, 2014, all 911 call taking and dispatching services for Kemper County were moved to Neshoba County 911 (NC911). Why? Prior to the cutover, Kemper County had a one position, ANI ONLY, WP0 dispatch center. Let me explain.
(1) One Position – we only had one telecommunicator on duty at a time;
(2) ANI ONLY – ANI was the only information provided to the telecommunicator; (number only, no location info.)
(3) WP0 – Wireless Phase 0, no location information was provided to the telecommunicator through the system. The caller had to provide it.
Once we made the move to NC911, we were now able to take advantage of a 2x24/7 position (expandable to 4 if needed), Fully Enhanced 911, and WP2 system.
(1) 2x24/7- NC911 has two telecommunicators that are on duty 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This can be expanded to four positions during times of heavy demand, such as a Tornado outbreak;
(2) Fully Enhanced 911 – The telecommunicator is able to take advantage of all the data, ANI, ALI, and ESN information that is available through the PSAP;
(3) WP2 – This is probably the best advancement we get by moving to NC911. The PSAP is capable of using all the GPS ALI data provided by the phone. The cellular caller will be located on a map with an interpolated address for the telecommunicator to use when they send out the emergency response agency;
(4) And we are able to take advantage of these advancements in capabilities for less cost than our current system.
There are many other benefits to the move to NC911 but I have tried to give you an overview of those that will mean the most to the citizens of Kemper County.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish…”
James R. Moore