Last week the issues surrounding the 911 system in the state were brought to light. But what does the Board do from here to fix those issues and make sure the outages are kept to a minimum and that no calls go unanswered?
There are a couple of possible solutions.
The first is to get the set standards passed. With these, the Board will have a set of rules it can implement to make sure that all of the 911 centers are working in the same fashion. Every center will have to abide by the same rules. Each telecommunicator will have to receive certification and that may help get the level of service up, which is very important to Richard Taylor, Executive Director for the 911 Board. Taylor said the standards should go into effect by November 2014 as they are currently going through the Office of State Budget and Management.
The most important thing the standards will require would be a backup plan for each Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). Right now only 23 of the 127 centers have approved backup plans and there are 19 more pending that Taylor says should be approved in the next 90 days. Right now the other 85 centers without backup plans can only be encouraged to come up with a plan. Under the new standards every center in the state would have to have a backup plan.
The 911 Board met with centers from all across the state to discuss the best backup options. The most popular option right now is a Hybrid Backup PSAP. This is a 24-hour center that can operate for a few hours while a PSAP is down. This also includes a mobile PSAP that can travel throughout the state. Taylor says there is already a company operating this center so there would be no construction costs required.
Another positive thing going forward is the orthoimagery project. This is a geometrically corrected picture such that the scale is uniform: the photo has the same lack of distortion as a map. Unlike an uncorrected aerial photograph, an orthophotograph can be used to measure true distances, because it is an accurate representation of the Earth’s surface, having been adjusted for topographic relief, lens distortion, and camera tilt.
This project went statewide in 2010 free of charge to every county. The 911 Board and the state Emergency Management office (which falls under the Department of Public Safety) are currently working together to ensure that every county has access to the orthography and mapping system for all 100 counties. This will allow counties like Johnston to access the mapping for Wake in the event their center suffers an outage. This gives counties the ability to locate a call so that the proper response team is dispatched.
In the previous article, the different types of outages were discussed. Taylor says the 911 Board is meeting with telephone companies to ensure that there are no more Telco outages. He said the board is also currently discussing plans to ensure that calls are rerouted in the event of an outage so they can at least be answered. “[This] is not the best solution,” Taylor says, “But the call[s] will be answered.”
The Board understands they can never prevent 100 percent of the problems, but they want to focus on 99.9 percent of the calls going through when centers go down. They want these calls redirected somewhere so someone can answer them.
As of now Taylor feels like all issues “have been addressed” and says everyone is “now on board.”