Next Generation 9-1-1 project files to operate In Illinois
HERRIN, Ill. - The Counties of Southern Illinois (CSI) organization announced that a petition for authorization to conduct a Regional Next Generation 9-1-1 Pilot Project was submitted to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) on Friday, Feb. 3.
The filing of the petition is the latest milestone toward implementing the vision for improved public safety shared by the citizens of the region.
CSI is comprised of 16 Emergency Telephone Service Boards (ETSBs) in southern Illinois that have been operating through inter-governmental agreements as a not-for-profit 501(c) 3 organization. The petition was filed pursuant to Public Act 096-1443, an act that gives the ICC the authority to grant to a group of 15 to 18 counties, permission to proceed with moving live emergency communications traffic to a regional pilot Next Generation 9-1-1 system.
The CSI executive board members - including Ken Smith, Jana Fear, Tracy Felty and Pat Lustig - announced the filing as "a major step towards the future of emergency services response."
According to CSI Project Manager Pat Lustig, "Over five years ago we realized that 9-1-1 systems had outlived the circuit switched based networks that have facilitated 9-1-1 call delivery for the last 20 years. New technologies and consumer expectations were leading the way. There could only be one choice: Transition to this new IP architecture."
Next Generation 9-1-1 Systems utilize current communications technology to connect callers and their location information to the 9-1-1 professionals, who in turn dispatch needed services in emergency situations. These new systems offer lower costs, more flexibility in managing personnel and routing of calls, and a platform to support popular and emerging technologies, such as text messaging, telematics and video streaming. Such capabilities are not part of the existing basic 9-1-1 or Enhanced 9-1-1 (E9-1-1) systems.
CSI Treasurer Tracy Felty explained, "Only a limited amount of data can be sent along a copper wire, but with the expansion to an IP type of system, much more information may be sent to a 9-1-1 Emergency Dispatch Center. The ability to pass this information forward to responders, hospitals or other agencies, that are often left out of an initial response to an emergency, is endless.
"For those who thought the telegraph would never be replaced for an emerging technology, we now sit at the same location some 125 years later, seeing a new technology emerging that will be beneficial to everyone and open new gateways for all."
CSI is anticipating a positive impact on the region. CSI Secretary Jana Fear said, "With the full implementation of Next Generation 9-1-1 capabilities, this upgrade of service can and will enhance the lives of not only citizens who reside in the CSI 9-1-1 footprint but for all citizens traveling though our area who find the need for 9-1-1 service."
The vendor selected to lead the project is NG-911, Inc., a leading supplier of Next Generation 9-1-1 Systems. NG-911, Inc.
CEO Michael Ramsey said, "After nine years of being fully committed to the deployment of Next Generation 9-1-1 and being involved in the evolution of standards for Next Generation 9-1-1, I am grateful to have the opportunity to demonstrate that this can work, with a dedicated group of people at that."
Bart Lovett, NG-911, Inc.'s project manager, added, "It is inspiring to see something come off the drawing board and become a reality. I can't tell you how many times I've heard 9-1-1 Directors say that they'll be retired before Next Generation 9-1-1 is established, which is a shame knowing all the benefits it will bring. Next Generation 9-1-1 is a reality, and with the Commission's approval for CSI to be the pilot, we can confirm it with live traffic in the counties of Southern Illinois."
The petition describes CSI's plan for the pilot project, including the design of their Emergency Services Internet Protocol Network (ESInet), Databases and Data Management Processes, which are based on standards developed by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). NENA is the primary national association of 9-1-1 professionals that focuses on technology, operations, education and public policy related to emergency communications services. Assure911.net, LLC, a supplier of reliability design solutions and E9-1-1 and Next Generation 9-1-1 monitoring systems, designed the CSI ESInet.
NENA's support and guidance helped the Assure911 team to design the new system to be compliant with the standards. Barbara Kemp of Assure911 explained that adhering to standards is the right way for CSI to proceed.
"The CSI NG9-1-1 architecture includes a NENA standards-based ESInet using forward-looking IP protocols with newer capabilities to allow callers from anywhere, anytime, and any device to reach emergency assistance. It is important to build their next solution on a NENA standards platform to save lives and know the investment of treasure, manpower, and materials is directionally correct for the long haul," said Kemp.
Assure911 conducted testing of their design, utilizing the Real Time Communications Lab (RTCL) at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).
Assure911's David Staub explained, "First, Professor Carol Davids, the director of the IIT RTCL, was a key contributor to the ESInet design. Second, we worked with students and their mentors to set up the lab to resemble the configuration we designed for CSI. We asked them to perform tests to show whether the ESI net was resilient to component failure, which it proved to be.
"The IIT team performed security tests and tested the performance of the network under a simulated load. All of these tests generated important information that will streamline the turn-up of the actual network, the CSI ESInet, when the time comes."
The ESInet will reside on the broadband network being deployed across southern Illinois by Clearwave Communications, a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grantee. Clearwave is in the midst of a multi-year build out of a fiber-based network that will connect hundreds of schools, hospitals, and other public institutions in southern Illinois to the Internet.
The ICC has at least 180 days to consider whether to approve the petition, a process not to be taken lightly.
Much remains to be done as CSI goes through the regulatory approval process, but all feel it has been a good experience so far. Barbara Kemp said, "From the first moment I met with the CSI Board Members and their associates I knew I was meeting people with high integrity and passion a bout what they were undertaking. They bonded for the public good and they are among the best people I have worked with, steady, supportive of each other and their mission, technically astute, and they have a ‘never give up' attitude."
Ken Smith agreed, "This has been a great learning experience. I have seen the value of perseverance, cooperation and assembling the right team of experts. This has truly been a team effort and it will be so gratifying if and when we get this project approved."
Pat Lustig added, "I realized our vision could be achieved by working with our neighboring 9-1-1 systems, who had the same goals as we did. In the process I have built life-long relationships. It has been challenging but rewarding."