May 06, 2020
Rob Clark - GM North America

For over a decade, actually, over 15 years at this point, the industry has raved about NG9-1-1. It’s raved how it would solve so many problems by providing a ubiquitous framework that every PSAP would be able to benefit from while having access to so much more information: Multimedia to the PSAP, data and location accuracy improvements, IP networks and software services for a predominant mobile society. These were the promises of NG9-1-1, the game-changer our industry would all be able to leverage to dramatically improve citizen and First Responder safety. Now I ask you, if NG9-1-1 can do all of this, WHY are we still hearing statements from the industry including “we need to be able to work from home”, or “We need to spin up a new PSAP domain because our center has been exposed to COVID-19”?

 

Why do our nation’s FIRST first responders not have the tools they need to bug out, answer calls from anywhere, share data with agency stakeholders or hold a video call with a potentially infected caller who needs a quick triage from a qualified health practitioner? For a very few jurisdictions in the US, they do, but even they have limits as to what is possible and what isn’t, as it takes all the pieces in the box to complete the puzzle and on a national scale, far too many pieces in the set are either stuck in the box or lost on the floor and long forgotten.

 

We have a national initiative that, had we adopted it sooner, would have produced such a dramatically different picture over the last three months we cannot begin to quantify the benefits. Lives have been lost because technology did not allow people to work smarter, because systems “..weren’t designed to support working from home”, because products are at their end of life and the new wrappers are made of duct tape and bailing wire and not a big red bow. As stated recently by one of our industry’s foremost leaders, “It’s time to throw the old 911 out the window”, as this reality that has been lived painfully by our nation’s First Responders has sadly displayed to the world that our nation is dreadfully behind the eight ball with adoption of NG9-1-1. How many more crises do we have to experience to get us to fund and accelerate a full transition to NG9-1-1? What will the next crisis do to expose further weaknesses? How many time do we have to keep hearing from our industry’s leaders “IF I only had the ability to…..” before we answer them with “You have it, you just have to take action and force the change”? If ever there was a time to force that adoption…..heck, mandate it nationally, the time is now as we cannot afford to continue underserving our citizens, our First Responders nor our nation. 

 

We cannot just shut down and hide, nor do we need to, as we have the technology today that answers all the questions herein. The problem we face is fear of change in some areas, lack of funding in others, and a universal lack of criticality to the situation. If a pandemic does not force change, what will? Do we just want to wait until the next major crisis emerges and talk about things for another 6 months, or do we want to take action now and own our respective destiny?

 

While there is no single solution to the problem, the key thing to remember is that there are solutions and they will scale with the needs of the agencies, based on their needs and operational dynamics. And, wherein vendors are doing their best to help through this difficult period, we must also know how we can help; Carbyne has heard your calls loud and clear and, as evidenced by some of our industry’s foremost leaders, advisors and practitioners during the virtual conference hosted April 23rd. These leaders answered, and continue to answer, the call every day and have an ever changing dynamic facing them as they continue to protect, serve and save the lives of those who call for help. They have told us all what they need, we must take action as a nation and not just listen to their calls for help, but deliver the tools they need to keep themselves and those they serve (us all) safe. Action, not words, that is what we all need to take as we owe these people their lives (literally) and if the past is an indicator of what the future trend will be, many more will needlessly die and economies will crash if we stay the course. Change the course, for as sure we can all guarantee the sun will rise and set each day, there will be another catastrophic event that challenges our nation…..it is simply a matter of when, not if, and at the rate we are going, we can guarantee it will cripple our ability to function. 

 

On behalf of Carbyne and a very frustrated end user community, I challenge our nation’s leadership to mandate funding for NG9-1-1 and help simplify the funding process for agencies to take control of their own destinies IMMEDIATELY. They need money to quickly deploy the solutions of their future, and with the projected gaps in budgets now staring every local government in the face, without this ability one thing is certain – it will only get worse over time. The key to determining who lives and who dies comes down to how great our nation’s lawmakers and financial stewards believe the problem to be. Funding NG9-1-1 is a drop in the bucket by comparison to the emergency funding approved as a result of this crisis, and if lawmakers think that is too much, then we might as well all become used to being sick, poor, hungry and mentally ill as we will find ourselves right back where we are, yet with more debt and less solutions.

 

If living the liberties and freedoms afforded by the Constitution of the United States and which make this country so great are the continued desire of us all, the answer is simple – demand change, do not accept no for an answer, and take control of your own path. This nation was not founded by people who took no for an answer, who laid down when things were at their most difficult, who accepted mediocrity. The United States of America was built by revolutionaries who dedicated their lives to fight, took action to change their future and did so for the lives of their families and for generations to come.

 

It is time to come together stronger than ever before, for our nation’s most important warriors on our home front need us like never before. NG9-1-1 for all.

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