Author: Amelia MuellerAmelia Mueller is the North Central Texas Emergency Communication District's communications coordinator. Her responsibilities include managing NCT911.org and its social media platforms, creating educational content, managing the public education program, and more.

The Only 9-1-1 Academy in Texas Will Graduate 13 New Telecommunicators During North Texas 9-1-1 Staffing Shortages

The Only 9-1-1 Academy in Texas Will Graduate 13 New Telecommunicators During North Texas 9-1-1 Staffing Shortages

ARLINGTON, TX, August, 3, 2021 — The North Central Texas Emergency Communications District (NCT9-1-1) will graduate 13 new 9-1-1 telecommunicators from the Regional Telecommunicator Training Academy on August 6 in a virtual ceremony. These recruits join the industry during a significant staffing shortage of 9-1-1 telecommunicators in North Texas. The recruits of class #011 represent agencies from across the region including the Balch Springs Police Department, Collin County Sheriff’s Office, Seagoville Police Department, and more.

The graduates completed a rigorous four-week program that taught 9-1-1 equipment use, state mandates and regulations, as well as how to handle crisis communications such as active shooters. They will graduate after taking the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) State Licensing Exam. Texas is the only state in the country that requires its 9-1-1 telecommunicators to be licensed in the same line as peace officers and jailers and was the first state to reclassify them from administrative professionals to first responders.

“They’re joining the industry during unprecedented times,” said NCT9-1-1 Training Coordinator Bret Batchelor. “The pandemic has changed a lot, and they’ll have to adapt quickly as it continues to affect the day-to-day roles of first responders. The chances of burn out only increase when working in that kind of high-stakes environment. But I have confidence that they all have what it takes to excel at this career.”

The academy has graduated recruits from across Texas and Arkansas since its inception in February 2016 and continues to grow with classes held twice a year in the winter and summer.

Class Photo of RTA #011
Class photo of Regional Telecommunicator Academy Class #011

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About the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District (NCT9-1-1)

The North Central Texas Emergency Communications District (NCT9-1-1) is responsible for 40 plus Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) in the 13 counties surrounding the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The district supports these PSAPs through maintaining and upgrading 9-1-1 equipment, providing up-to-date mapping information, training 9-1-1 telecommunicators, educating the public on the proper use of 9-1-1, and monitoring PSAP functionality and compliances. NCT9-1-1 serves a population of 1.7 million and 10,000+ square miles.

 

The History of 9-1-1 Innovation

The History of 9-1-1 Innovation

The first 911 call was made on February 16, 1968 in Haleyville, Alabama by Representative Rankin Fite. It was a call that launched an industry dedicated to saving lives and supporting communities.  

At the time, the 911 system was called Basic 911. The system was a simple, two-way call and didn’t involve any of the routing or location accuracy we associate with 9-1-1 today. It was implemented before wireless phones, so it was a lot easier to know where you were calling from. 

911 has evolved significantly since that first call, but what key moments brought us from Basic 911 to recognizing wireless location to texting 911? 

Enhanced 911 

Enhanced, or E911, is the system most call centers use today. Implementing E911 into an agency allowed for a variety of new features and tools. Addresses, for example, can be displayed on a E911 system. ALI, or the Automatic Location Identifier, was provided with addresses being stored in a Master Street Addressing Guide (MSAG). Calls could also not be routed to the correct 911 call center by area code.

As wireless phones became more popular, there was an increased need for more accurate location information other than the ALI. That’s when the cell phone carriers began providing Phase I and Phase II as additional location information. Phase I provided a radius of where the caller was located based on cell phone tower signals, while Phase II narrowed down that radius to about 300 meters.  

E911 was the beginning of more innovative technology becoming available to 911 telecommunicators and led to the introduction of Next Generation 911. 

Next Generation 911 

Next Generation 911 (NG911) was first identified as a need in 2007. Technology was evolving quickly all over the country, and industry leadership recognized a new system was needed to support this rapid change.  

The introduction of NG911 allowed for cloud-based technologies to be integrated into the 911 system. This included GIS data and device-based hybrid location, which uses factors like GPS, Bluetooth beacons, WIFI, and other sources to provide a more accurate location of a caller. This is particularly important since much of the country has moved to smart devices.  

NG911 also brought the introduction of additional data, which are supplemental resources 911 telecommunicators can use to build situational awareness to a call. This can include being able to view the iPhone Health app information when a call is made from that device or connecting to the phone’s camera to see what’s happening on scene in a live stream.  

There are many other types of innovation the emergency number industry is working on developing, and even some new technology that we haven’t identified yet! Looking back at the history of 911 innovation makes us excited to think about what the future of the industry holds. 

 

Can I Connect My Address to My Cell Phone? Sort of.

Can I Connect My Address to My Cell Phone? Sort of.

You want to know how to connect your cell phone to your home address in case you have to dial 911. We get this question a lot, or it’s close cousin: “Doesn’t 911 automatically know my location when calling on a cell phone?”  

Wireless location accuracy is different than wireline. On a wireline- – or landline — phone, your address is registered with your landline phone number and stored in the Master Street Addressing Guide (MSAG). We manage that for our region. When you dial out on a landline, your address is associated with your phone number and the 911 telecommunicator can see it. Simple, right? So, what happens when you call on a cell phone? 

We’ve gone into more detail about wireless location accuracy in other blogs, but your device is either triangulated with legacy technology and gives the 911 telecommunicator an approximate location within 300 meters, or enhanced location technology is used to find a more accurate determination of your location.  There’s a lot more to it than that, but what we’re saying is you don’t have to register your address with your cell phone to reach 911. The only exception to this is wifi calling. 

What is Wifi Calling? 

Wifi calling just means you’re placing a wireless call over a wifi signal instead of a typical cell phone signal. Wifi calling is generally used when a cell signal is weak, and it will set up automatically if your device is connected to a wifi signal. You can use it to talk or text and when you set up your phone, it asks you for an address to register for wifi calling.  

If you call 911 with a cell signal, your location is determined by one of the processes we described earlier. If you call over wifi, your call will be routed based on the address you provided. You can set up your address in the settings of your device, but this information is not stored or maintained by your local law enforcement or county addressing coordinator’s office. Carriers maintain and update this data. You can read more about your carrier’s wifi calling services below. 

AT&T 

AT&T’s address database is maintained by a third party, not NCT9-1-1. If you are unable to set up your address for wifi calling with your device, you must contact the AT&T Mobility (ATTMO) Customer Care Center at 1-800-331-0500.  

Verizon 

A valid address must be used for wifi calling. Verizon recommends validating your emergency address with the USPS or entering an alternative address through their website. 

T-Mobile 

You can set up you e911 address with T-Mobile within you’re my T-Mobile account. 

911 and Wifi Calling 

When you dial 911 over a wifi signal, the call will route to the call center based on your registered address. This is why carriers do not allow you to register an unverifiable address. If you connect to wifi outside of your registered address, such as at your place of work, the call will still be routed based on your registered address and not your current location. The 911 telecommunicator will also receive the registered address as the location of your emergency. If you move locations and call 911 over wifi, you must update your registered address. 

Four 911 Myths and Why They’re Dangerous

Four 911 Myths and Why They’re Dangerous

Everyone knows what three digits to call during an emergency, but we always hear rumors about the 911 industry. We’re not sure where these assumptions come from, but every now and then we like to share the latest 911 myths and set the record straight. This week we’re discussing our top four from the past year, but look at the last time we addressed popular emergency number myths. 

Myth 1: You will be charged for dialing 911 

We hear this most often from our more senior public, but this is also a common query on search engines. Luckily 911 is supported by public funds, so it doesn’t cost you anything to dial those three digits. Every state has a different approach to processing 911 funds, but in the NCT9-1-1 service area, you pay a 911 service fee on every phone bill. After going through some formalized budgetary processes at the capital, that money is distributed to the various 911 authorities across the state. Your local law enforcement office may also have a budget to support communications.  

You may be charged for emergency medical services, such as riding in an ambulance to a hospital, but that cost depends on the hospital and your own health insurance policy.  

Myth 2: You can’t text 911 

This actually depends on where you live. Those living in the NCT9-1-1 service area have been able to text 911 since 2013,  but only about 25% of the country has text-to-9-1-1. It’s always better to call if you can and text if you can’t, but if you text in an area that doesn’t offer text, you’ll receive a bounce back message. 

How to Text 911

Myth 3:  911 can’t call you back 

In most cases, 911 will receive your phone number and is able to call you back. The only exception is if you call on an inactive cell phone (or a phone that isn’t connected to a call plan). Though you will be able to reach 911, they will not receive location information or a call back number. You should also still confirm your phone number with the 911 call taker to make sure they have the right information. 

Myth 4: 911 automatically knows your location when you call on a cell phone 

We’ve said it a hundred times but we’ll say it again: 911 does not always get your exact location when you call on a cell phone. They may receive your approximate location, which is accurate within about 300 meters (or 3 football fields). That’s why it is always important to immediately tell the 9-1-1 call taker where you are and never assume they can track you.