The refreshed 9-1-1 Comprehensive Plan, which was approved by the 9-1-1 Services Board at their March 10, 2011 meeting, revises the original Plan's vision and goals and identifies the continuation of four strategic initiatives to be completed by December 31, 2011. These initiatives will be undertaken by teams consisting of PSAP community members and supported by ISP staff.
PSAP Educational and Training Services
Since the creation of the PSC Division in 2000, the Division has hosted several training opportunities for PSAPs. The training was less part of an overall training program and was more ad hoc based on requests received from the PSAP community. While some of the training was conducted by PSC staff, other training was provided through sponsorship of formal training courses conducted by a professional training organization such as the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). Whether developed in house or by an outside instructor, the training has historically been a reaction to a request by a region or a group of PSAPs.
Rather than continue with this type of an ad hoc training program, the ISP is developing comprehensive PSAP training services that more proactively identify training needs and methods of satisfying those needs. This program must complement rather than compete with existing training programs from the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) as well as those provided by NENA and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO). During the development of this program, the ISP will identify partnerships (with those organizations already providing some training) for the delivery of the training. Innovative delivery methods must also be explored to address the limited training resources in most PSAPs. All regions of the Commonwealth must be able to avail themselves to the training in a cost effective manner. Holding one training class in Richmond will not effectively address this issue.
Next Generation E-911
New challenges threaten to undermine the historical success of the E-911 system. The current system architecture will prevent the E-911 system from being able to meet those challenges. The E-911 network was designed to support E-911 service to the wireline telephone system. Unfortunately, the design has changed little since its introduction in the early 1980's, which was actually based on 1970's analog technology. This means the current E-911 system handles voice very reliably, but can only handle a very small amount of data. While this was adequate for the wired world of the 80's and 90's, wireline telephone service is now declining. Many citizens are converting their telephone service to wireless or other newer technologies. Many are not maintaining wireline service at all, opting instead for the more mobile wireless service or cheaper Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services. As reliability of these services increases, more and more people will adopt them as their only telephone service. This shift has had a dramatic impact on Virginia's PSAPs.
Because of the large investments that had been made in the existing E-911 networks, when wireless E-911 emerged, the solutions for deploying wireless E-911 Phase I and Phase II were shoehorned into the existing wireline E-911 networks. However, with the advent of new telecommunications services such as VoIP, it is becoming increasingly difficult to shoehorn 21st century technologies into a 20th century infrastructure. It is also not practical to address with each new telecommunications service as a separate overlay to the existing E-911 network. The Commonwealth needs to begin planning now for the next generation E-911 system that will support the citizens regardless of the device, network protocol or location from which they request emergency services. Working with the Wireless E-911 Services Board and other stakeholder, the PSC Division is supporting a number of projects to advanced deployment of next generation E-911 solutions.
Hosted PSAP Services
The concept of host PSAP services was born from a discussion of the Wireless E-911 Services Board regarding ways to leverage the economies of scale within the PSAP environment. The discussion was the result of several small PSAPs seeking greater funding due to the limited local resources to maintain existing PSAP services. Several Board members made the observation that if small localities lack the resources to maintain a PSAP then maybe several localities should consolidate their PSAPs to achieve greater economies. This concept was not palatable to all in the PSAP community due to loss of autonomy and local control of emergency services delivery.
Trying to develop ways of achieving greater economies of scale, but recognizing the PSAPs' reluctance for consolidation, the concept of hosted PSAP services was formulated. With this approach, VITA or its partner, Northrop Grumman, would host the servers and backroom equipment that operates the call handling positions within the PSAP. Using VoIP and the statewide IP network, the served PSAPs will connect to this equipment and receive the services. By sharing common systems, the PSAPs will be able to interoperate and share information more easily as well as having the ability to redirect calls in the event of a PSAP evacuation or overload situation. Additionally, since the systems will be hosted in a tier III data center that is staffed 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, this service will provide routine maintenance, back-up and recovery services, which are not currently available to most small PSAPs. Other than using a shared system, the PSAP will still maintain their autonomous operation.
The hosted PSAP services option will be offered as an option to PSAPs replacing their current systems. Since no capital outlay will be required for the backroom equipment, this option will likely be attractive to many small PSAPs, but is contingent on the implementation of the statewide IP network and new data centers.
Wireless E9-1-1 Services Board PSAP Baseline Survey
The goal of the baseline survey initiative was to create a comprehensive inventory of all assets, resources, services and capabilities of primary wireless PSAPs in the Commonwealth from which the resulting data would fulfill the following objectives:
- Serve as input for each of the remaining four initiatives in the plan.
- Allow the Wireless E-911 Services Board and board staff to gain insight for strategic and tactical planning and decision making.
- Allow PSAPs to view and query data, and to use the data to develop business cases for enhancing their operations.
An initiative action team, comprised of various 911 stakeholders, worked together to create the survey which was used to capture the data. Five categories were used to organize the various data elements to be collected: jurisdictional and contact; financial; facilities management; equipment, technology and telecommunications; and staffing and operations.
Read more about the PSAP Baseline Survey Data.