Next-Generation-911

Also known as NG911, this is a nationwide initiative to modernize the 911 emergency communications system. The most dramatic change is that all communications over an NG911 system become digital. This means that the following can be delivered over a NG911 network to a 911 center:

  • Voice
  • Text
  • Photos
  • Video

And it doesn't stop there - eventually, other types of messages/communications can be delivered to the 911 center - such as Automatic Crash Notifications can be sent from your car, data from health and fitness apps on a mobile phone can share heart-rate, blood pressure, or even blood sugar levels with a 911 center.

Every message between the individual needing assistance the the 911 center will be converted to a digital format.

This change toward NG911 will mean more and different types of communications can be delivered to and processed by the 911 center. Also, many of these messages can be forwarded by the 911 center to the first responders in the field, which gives them greater situational awareness about the type of emergency they are responding to.

Within Pierce County, the 911 Program Office is coordinating the roll out of the new networks and technologies needed to bring the vision of NG911 to reality. Our partners in this effort include:

  • Washington State E911 Coordinator's Office (SECO)
  • Originating Service Providers (those companies that provide services directly to the consumer)
  • Pierce County Spatial Services (developing the mapping systems and data needed to better understand a user's location at the time an emergency occurs)
  • Joint Base Lewis-McChord
  • South Sound 911
  • Washington State Patrol (District 1 - Tacoma)
  • Multiple public safety communications hardware and software developers

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1       When will I be able to text 911 in Pierce County?

A1        Currently there is not a definite date that Text-to-911 will be available in Pierce County. The 911 Program Office in cooperation with South Sound 911, Washington State Patrol, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord are coordinating the implementation of this service.

Q2       Why have other counties in Washington made this available but Pierce County hasn’t?

A2        Most other counties offering this service have done so using a web-based solution, which requires separate computers to be installed in the 911 centers just for processing text messages.

The approach in Pierce County has been to use an application that is integrated into the existing 911 call processing equipment. This approach requires comprehensive security devices and procedures be in place before texts can be delivered.

The County 911 Program Office is in the final stages of testing these new security measures. Once that security testing is complete, the 911 centers will begin the process of installing the software that will allow text messages to be received.

Q3       Why do you need new security measures for simple text messages?

A3        Text-to-911 is the first step in a series of major changes that are happening to the 911 system in the United States. This new system is called Next Generation 911 (or NG911). Once fully implemented, NG911 will allow individuals to send not only text messages but photos, videos, and lots of other data to a 911 center.

Pierce County has taken the approach that all this new data that will be sent to a 911 center could potentially include malicious software. That malicious software could prevent a 911 center from being able to receive or process requests for assistance from the community. Because the 911 system is expected to be up and running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the risk of adding new methods of communication must be balanced with the risks associated with them.

The 911 Program Office, in partnership with South Sound 911, WSP and JBLM, is ensuring that the security systems that are currently being tested will be able to accommodate any form of communication being delivered to a 911 telecommunicator without compromising that system.