There is a nationwide push to upgrade to Next Gen 911, the National Emergency Number Association reports that in the Midwest, Nebraska is in the planning phase, Montana and the Dakotas are in the process of implementing, and Iowa is the only state to have implemented Next Gen statewide.
Nebraska has not yet upgraded to Next Generation 911. The current “Legacy System” is from the 1960’s which was built for landline phones.
“So even though we are in an age where your smart phone knows exactly where you are at, 911 cannot,” said Tom Casady, Lincoln Public Safety Director.
“This is life and death, these are people that need help right away when they call 911, we want to make sure we 100% of the time locate the caller,” said Nebraska 911 Director David Sankey.
Sankey is leading the charge to transition to Next Gen. He is helping figure out how all 60 Public Safety Access Points (PSAP,) or 911 Centers, will be updated. In order to upgrade to Next Gen, each one has to upgrade to an internet protocol based system.
“Calls will be located and routed to the 911 centers through geospatial call routing,” said Sankey, which is using Geographic Information System mapping.
GIS is a series of maps layered on top of one another, there is a layer for street center lines, another one for each PSAP boundary, and another that shows where every emergency service jurisdiction is.
“All of these have to be accurate, they have to match up with one another wherever this is a boarder and maintained regularly,” said Casady. He said the GIS system is almost like the backbone of Next Gen, and is a critical step in providing better location accuracy.
“The calls are no longer being routed based on a huge table of addresses; they are being routed based on where that phone is in a polygon,” said Casady.
Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy Counties have the most updated GIS systems, the other PSAPs in Nebraska use a third party vendor and each system has to be able to communicate, something Sankey said and they are still figuring it out.
“All PSAPs are using the maps to some extent,” he said. Sankey and his team within the Nebraska Public Service Commission will hammer out the details of Next Generation 911 in Nebraska. They will present a full breakdown of cost, a timeline, and their ideas of governance to the legislature in December.
“The emergency services internet protocol services and GIS are core services to be able to transition to next gen 911,” said Sankey.
The PSC will have public meetings on Next Generation 911, one will be in July and another in September.
3 News Now will continue to monitor the progress and bring you updates.