• Response personnel at 911 call centers nationwide will benefit from research to improve the interoperability and compatibility of Next-Generation 911 systems. Credit: Photo by U.S. Department of Commerce
     Response personnel at 911 call centers nationwide will benefit from research to improve the interoperability and compatibility of Next-Generation 911 systems. Credit: Photo by U.S. Department of Commerce

Consortium Researches 911 Communications Interoperability

August 4, 2020
By Maryann Lawlor
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Work aims at improving first responders’ effectiveness.


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute will develop a framework and process for testing the interoperability and compatibility of Next-Generation 911 (NG911) systems. The work could improve streaming video from emergency incidents, photos of accident damage or medical information sharing. These capabilities would benefit experts assisting 911 callers as well as emergency responders on the scene.

NG911 is an updated version of the current nationwide emergency response system operating on an Internet protocol platform to enable voice, video, photo, text and future communications technologies to be transmitted to and by the public and first responders. It also will enable call transfer among 911 centers in times of call overload, which can occur during natural disasters or other catastrophic incidents. The current 911 system does not feature these capabilities.

Researchers at the institute, which is a DHS Center of Excellence the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) leads, will focus on understanding and obtaining end-users’ consensus on requirements for interoperability and compatibility testing. They will focus on identifying a method for establishing a program to define test approaches and a proven and formal methodology for ensuring interoperability.

In addition to UIUC researchers, the team includes experts from Texas A&M and the University of Washington. These scientists work with key stakeholders within the DHS, the Department of Transportation, the Defense Department and public safety agencies at large. Industry and academia will work with the researchers to develop an approach and testing requirements. 

The research project supports the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The agency ensures federal, state, local, tribal and territorial agencies have the necessary plans, resources and training to support operable and advanced interoperable emergency communications.

Additional information about the DHS Centers of Excellence is available by contacting the DHS Office of University Programs.

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