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4 NG9-1-1 Lessons Learned for Introducing New Technology into Your PSAP

4 NG9-1-1 Lessons Learned for Introducing New Technology into Your PSAP

At the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District, we pride ourselves on our commitment to innovation, but we aren’t just after the shiniest, newest tech. We are first always looking out for our PSAPs and telecommunicators, and our job is to help them do their job by giving them the tools, training, and support they need. As Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) continues to gain ground and as more and more new technologies dominate our lives, we have to adopt new digital strategies to accomplish this goal.

Over the years, we’ve adopted a significant number of NG9-1-1 tools, which means we’ve had a lot of experiences that taught us some valuable lessons. We wanted to share these to help other 9-1-1 entities strategize for NG9-1-1 implementation.

Involve your TCs from the start

There’s nothing worse than having a change thrown at you out of the blue. Even if that change is going to help you do your job in the end. Talk to your TCs long before the new change or innovation is implemented and get their opinions on the best way to do it. The more your team hears about the upcoming change, the easier it will be for them to adapt, and they may be able to point something out that you had previously not considered. This means that you need to take their suggestions seriously. Don’t make a show of wanting to hear from the telecommunicators just to please them and then ignore their requests. Though we know that some ideas might not be feasible for implementation, going out of your way to hear concerns and adopt as much as possible will let your team know that you’re on their side.

Before we adopted a lot of our innovative tools, like supplemental location accuracy or crowd-sourced data collecting, we held meetings, focus groups, and other discussions with representatives from our PSAPs so that we could better understand how they would be affected. This was a lesson we learned early on from one of our first NG9-1-1 projects after we were told that our TCs wanted more of a say in the implementation process. Though we included our PSAP Supervisor Committee in these early conversations, our telecommunicators wanted an even more inclusive conversation with other PSAP personnel. We heard them, and we adapted.

9-1-1 Tech Updating PSAP to NG9-1-1
NCT9-1-1 technician during the call-handling solution cutover.

Develop appropriate training that mimics a live environment 

When NCT9-1-1 switched our call-handling solution for all 43 of our PSAPs, we knew that extensive training would be necessary to help our TCs adapt to the change. But we hit a road block when we discovered that some of our PSAPs were encountering different scenarios with the new solution in a live environment that were not present in that controlled training environment. Luckily, our training coordinator was flexible and able to adjust her lessons to meet these needs, but we learned then how important it was to have a training resource that would mimic what our TCs were actually seeing day-to-day.

Training can go beyond your TCs as well. Training the trainer is the first step to ensuring a smooth transition and training the staff members implementing the new solution so that they can answer telecommunicator questions is more valuable than you might think. Everyone involved in the process should know as much information as you can possibly give them, as this allows everyone to be on the same page and prevents miscommunication early on, which can lead to larger consequences down the road.

It’s also important to push for all of your telecommunicators to attend the training sessions, not just one representative as this might cause mistranslations of certain aspects of the system.

Communicate across silos

For a significant technological implementation, there are going to be a lot of people involved, which means a lot of varying opinions. For most of our NG9-1-1 implementations, we had 2 to 3 teams engaged, plus vendors and other stakeholders, and then the telecommunicators themselves. Everyone had a different idea of why this change was happening and what was the best way to do it. Before we realized how important it was to get everyone on the same page early on, we had issues of miscommunication between teams that led to a longer process overall. This meant that our technology team might have one idea of the best way to display a solution, while the operations team had another. Where a compromise could have been identified early on in the planning stages, one instead had to be made in the middle of the project, which slowed things down. Now we make an effort to ensure this discussion is had early on with all participating parties.

Change is coming to 9-1-1 with the adoption of Next Generation and it can improve your telecommunicators’ daily tasks if implemented correctly. Citizens utilize technology more and more, but public safety is still adapting to this new world. By planning ahead and communicating effectively, adopting NG9-1-1 doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

How to Call 9-1-1 in 3 Different Scenarios

How to Call 9-1-1 in 3 Different Scenarios

We don’t get to choose if or when an emergency strikes. We always advise 9-1-1 callers to stay calm and answer all of the telecommunicator’s questions but being prepared and knowing what to expect can help both you and the telecommunicator. You will always be asked to confirm your location regardless of the scenario, so be prepared to give your address and location, especially if you’re calling on a cell phone. This post will talk about how to call 9-1-1 in three different scenarios.

A Car Accident

Citizens have to call 9-1-1 to report a car accident they witnessed or were involved in. As always, the telecommunicator will need to know your location, but they may need some additional information to assist first responders like the direction of travel. Tell the call taker your direction of travel or the city you are driving towards. This will help them direct responders to approach the accident in the right direction.

The telecommunicator may also ask additional questions such as how many vehicles or persons are involved in the accident and if there are any injuries or road blockage. Listen carefully, stay calm, and answer all questions. Remember that your answers will help responders work with more efficiency once they arrive, and that the telecommunicator is not slowing response time by asking for these details. Telecommunicators are trained to simultaneously dispatch help and talk with caller, so don’t hang up until they say it’s okay.

A Suspicious Person

If you need to report a break in, a shop lifter, or someone acting suspiciously in a public place, you may need to describe a person to the telecommunicator. You’ll be asked a series of questions to help the responding officers locate the suspect, so try to remember these identifying features:





-Clothing, including the color and type of material (Jeans versus khakis, for example)

-Identifying scars, marks, or tattoos

-Eye color or hair color

-Additional information

Additional information may include a variety of things, but some common ones may be whether the suspect has a weapon, is intoxicated or on drugs, or the suspect’s vehicle information. While this information is vital, never put yourself into harm’s way to obtain it. Remember to stay on the line until the call taker says it is okay to hang up.

A False Call

Whether you accidentally dial or catch your young child calling 9-1-1 to “test it,” there is one rule you should always remember: Don’t hang up. Telecommunicators must call back all 9-1-1 hang-ups, and if you don’t pick up, they might send someone to check on you. The best thing to do if you make a false call to 9-1-1 is to stay on the line, explain the situation, and again always wait until the call taker gives you permission to hang up. This will save time in the long run and prevent any misunderstandings or unwanted to house calls.

There are lots of reasons why you may need to call 9-1-1, and we can’t possibly cover them all. However, if you remember to confirm your location, answer all questions, and stay on the line, then you’ll be able to help the telecommunicator help you.


House Bill 1090 Cheat Sheet

House Bill 1090 Cheat Sheet

As of today, House Bill 1090 has officially been signed by the Texas governor. This bill reclassifies 9-1-1 telecommunicators as first responders, and allows them to be recognized alongside the police, fire, and EMS professionals that they serve with. But how exactly will 9-1-1 telecommunicators be affected by this change? We reached out to the office of Texas Representative Cecil Bell Jr, who wrote HB 1090, to get an idea of the Texas statutes that would change after the bill becomes law on September 1 and made a cheat sheet.

You can download the interactive version of this cheat sheet here.

Famous 9-1-1 Myths and Why They’re Dangerous

Famous 9-1-1 Myths and Why They’re Dangerous

The first 9-1-1 call was made in 1968 by Senator Rankin Fite to inaugurate the new emergency communications system, and since then the 9-1-1 industry has seen many myths and assumptions pop up out of nowhere. Some of these stories are harmless, and some can may have serious or even life-threatening consequences to people who assume they are true. This post will cover some of the more famous 9-1-1 myths, but it’s important to do your research whenever you come across a claim on the internet.

9-1-1 Myth 1: Cell Phones Always Know Your Exact Location

It’s hard to believe with apps like Lyft and Door Dash that 9-1-1 doesn’t know your exact location when you call on a cell phone, but the truth is that the legacy 9-1-1 infrastructure just isn’t able to utilize this kind of technology. Companies like RapidSOS are working to help Public Safety Answering Points integrate this blue dot technology into their systems, but not every PSAP has it yet. To ensure a 9-1-1 telecommunicator can get help to you quickly, you should always be able to confirm your location, whether they have blue technology in their center or not.

All of the NCT9-1-1 region is integrated with blue dot technology, but our telecommunicators will still ask you to confirm your location every time.

9-1-1 Myth 2: Hang Up Immediately When You Accidentally Call 9-1-1

Though telecommunicators might appreciate your intention to avoid tying up the line, you’re actually wasting more time. Telecommunicators are required to call back any hang ups, so when you misdial it’s better to remain on the line and explain the situation. It happens more often than you’d think, and your local call takers will be glad that you didn’t waste more of their time.

9-1-1 Myth 3: You Should Call 9-1-1 to Report Power Outages

Your community’s PSAP doesn’t have any effect on returning power during an outage, and calling them to report it only ties up the line. If you’re looking to know when the power will return, a better option is to call the power company directly.

The only exception to this rule is if you or a family member utilize a life-saving medical device that relies on power. It would be acceptable to call 9-1-1 in this case.

This list could go on, but a better choice is to practice sound judgment. Not everything you read on the internet is true, so always verify the source of new information and do your due diligence and research to confirm its accuracy. Don’t let a 9-1-1 myth stand in the way of getting life-saving help in an emergency.