NG9-1-1 and reliability: But is it really?
Reliability is defined as consistent performance over time. Reliability means achieving as close to 100% uptime as possible, regardless of whether hardware, software, network, human error, or natural disasters impact your systems. It is a requirement for doing business in today’s “on demand” world.
Nowhere is the need for reliability more acute than with the emergency services. Access for callers dialling 9-1-1 needs to happen 100% of the time which means that there is no room for call blocking and during a surge event that may lead to a flood of calls these need to roll over from one PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) to another if necessary.
APCO International, the world’s oldest and largest organization of public safety communications professionals writes:
“In a next generation environment, PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Point) can transition premises-based call handling to distributed systems using ESInet connectivity to establish a robust and unified system among numerous PSAPs. This configuration enables a higher level of reliability by placing core systems at redundant hosted locations to protect operational continuity from local outages to large-scale disasters.” (APCO 43, p. 62)
Reliable ESInet design and implementation is absolutely critical to the above; as is the ability to address and accommodate future network requirements
However, Network reliability demands an understanding of a city’s unique requirements. The Next Generation Core Services (NGCS) operating on that ESInet must have state-wide awareness of the downstream entities it is servicing as they are usually realized by a network of networks. Attempting to deliver calls to an entity that cannot receive or service them may result in dropped or unanswered calls. When this occurs, NG9-1-1 has become unreliable.
More emphasis must therefore be placed on fully adopting NENA i3 functional interface standards at every functional element within the NG9-1-1 ecosystem. Using proactive notifications of service, element, and security states allows the upstream NGCS ESInet to activate policies for alternate routes to ensure 9-1-1 calls for service are always delivered, always answered. Together with best practice ESInet design and NGCS standard interfaces, NG9-1-1 reliability can be fully realized.
As cities moves toward upgrading and expanding services to the NG9-1-1 Emergency Services network, the need to build a solution robust enough to manage the long-term expansion of the communication ecosystem is paramount. The risks from 21st century threats, such as the impact of climate change, ensuring the continuity of critical services in an emergency, and the ability to recover more quickly from service outages, will further challenge the resilience of the city’s aging infrastructure for years to come.
Transitioning from the current analog voice delivery system, through a digital transformation, to NG 9-1-1 capabilities will be driven by the deployment of an ESInet network. This next-generation IP network will serve as the enabling technology to ensure reliability and continuity of service delivery with the industry’s highest level of system performance.