Is your city's 911 system as good as it could be?

Wed, 2016-06-01 06:00 -- Doug Peeples

We've been conditioned to think when a call goes to a 911 emergency call center it's going to get through — right away — and help will be coming soon. We expect it. We count on it. But help isn't always there. Think of it this way: 911 centers get about 240 million calls a year, and now the great majority of them are coming from cell phones. The problem is the calls need to go through cell phone towers and that can mean dispatchers sometimes can't find 
a caller's location on their maps quickly, even with specific information from the caller. With the increasing proliferation of cell phones  the efficiency of 911 call centers overall has dropped, and many are understaffed and underfunded.

The news release below describes a continuing partnership between Oakland County, Michigan and Black & Veatch to implement the company's Next Generation 9-1-1 system to give first responders information that comes faster and more reliably. But three elements of the story should stand out for city leaders: the new system will provide enhanced location data AND long-term cost savings. It also illustrates how beneficial a long-term relationship with your service provider can be. — Doug Peeples


New Next Generation 9-1-1 system in Oakland County, Michigan, benefits from Black & Veatch implementation

OVERLAND PARK, Kansas (26 May 2016) – Black & Veatch announced today it will continue its partnership with Oakland County, Michigan to implement its Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) system, which will provide improved 9-1-1 service with the capability to accept text, images, enhanced location data along with voice calls to the county’s public safety personnel. 
The new public safety network replaces an aging 9-1-1 infrastructure and enables public safety answering points (PSAPs) to receive 9-1-1 calls more quickly and dispatch Oakland County’s emergency first responders more effectively. The new system will link 21 PSAPs, further improving regional interoperability. The NG9-1-1 system is projected to be fully operational in 2017.
The project expands Black & Veatch’s relationship with Oakland County’s Courts and Law Enforcement Management Information System (CLEMIS). The company was selected to manage the new system’s procurement process in September 2014, including developing technical specifications based on National Emergency Number Association (NENA) i3 standards. Black & Veatch’s work on the system will now include full-service implementation support on the Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet) and NG9-1-1 applications to include vendor management, acceptance testing, training and cutover support.
“This project highlights a scalable, cost-effective integration that will provide long-term cost savings and more reliable service for Oakland County citizens,” said Chris Krafft, Vice President of Public Safety for Black & Veatch’s Telecommunications business. “Most importantly, the new system will help first responders operate in a safer, more efficient manner.” 
As part of the new contract, Black & Veatch professionals will also conduct a land mobile radio (LMR) system infrastructure planning and development study to analyze the county's public safety communication needs, along with the current legacy LMR system and develop technical requirements for a new communication system roadmap for CLEMIS. The study is scheduled to be completed in September 2016.
Learn more about Black & Veatch’s expanded public safety telecommunications capabilities at

From the Smart Cities Readiness Guide…

The Smart Cities Readiness Guide offers cities a wealth of expertise and guidance for cities that want to turn their ideas into action for safer, more sustainable cities. The chapter on public safety addresses the issues you will want to consider if a new 911 emergency system or an upgrade is on your city's to-do list. In addition to guidance, it includes ways to track your progress.

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.