Loudoun County, Virginia, where I’m System Fire Chief, is truly one of the best places to live in America. Since we’re located just outside Washington, DC, but still have comparatively affordable housing for the region, the county’s population is booming.
In Loudoun, we operate an emergency communications center, formally called the Emergency Communications Center or ECC, to support the county’s 400,000 residents. Every time a 9-1-1 call is made, it comes through the ECC where it’s referred to the right jurisdiction. We have our fire and rescue staff embedded in that facility, as well as the sheriff’s office staff. That’s why our communications systems are critical. We need them to always work so we get the appropriate help to the citizens that call, in both emergencies and non-emergencies.
As my colleague Patricia Turner, ECC Manager for Fire and Rescue says, “we need to bat a thousand. There is no margin for error in what we do. From the time a call is answered until the first unit appears on the scene, we have to get everything 100 percent right.”
We’ve partnered with Motorola Solutions for over 15 years to maintain our communication networks. With ASTRO® 25 radios and PremierOne™ Computer-aided Dispatch software, our personnel can instantly connect with each other and share data with responders in the field.
Motorola Solutions also manages support services for the ECC. In July of 2016, that support meant the difference between a catastrophic network failure and uninterrupted emergency support for our county. That’s when an unexpected power surge, caused by a third-party contractor, sparked a complete network failure and our first responders’ communications ground to a halt.
We worked with our communications staff to get some alternate towers up quickly, so 9-1-1 calls and dispatches went through without loss of services to Loudoun County citizens. Then, with a Motorola Solutions Managed Services resource, we were able to identify what was going on, rectify the situation, order the parts, get the parts shipped, get the resources on scene and get the system back to normal capacity in less than 24 hours.
With support like that, we don’t need to constantly think about patching, updating, or fixing radios and towers. We know it’s all taken care of and that even in unexpected emergencies like the 2016 power surge, help is ready any time support is needed. We don’t have to worry about it.
To learn more about the technology, services, and people powering this long-standing relationship, check out the full case study here.
- System Fire Chief Keith Johnson, Loudoun County, Virginia
There is always something going on in Washington D.C. We face all the same crimes as other major cities but we also have lots of events and activities, from the 22 million annual visitors who visit our various tourist sites to presidential motorcades, protests at national monuments and memorials, and special events on the National Mall. These activities rely on an organized response, requiring the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to interoperate with multiple D.C. agencies such as fire, EMS, secret service, Metro Park and also neighboring agencies from Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Shared Radio Communication System
The coordination between multiple agencies happens at the Office of Unified Communications (OUC) which operates the 9-1-1 center and the shared radio system for 27 agencies allowing us to easily coordinate an effective response. As a MPD officer in the field, I rely on the dispatcher to provide information on where we need to be and the background on the situation we will encounter. We also provide information back to the dispatcher about what is happening on scene, building a close partnership with the dispatcher to manage an effective response.
The radio I carry is my lifeline. It not only allows me to coordinate response, it also allows me to get additional help if I am in a tough situation. We get calls that originate in the 9-1-1 center, but we also come across situations in the field that need additional support and I know I can rely on my radio to get the help and response I need from my own agency and other agencies, too.
Multi Agency Collaboration
My job is to help protect the citizens and visitors to Washington D.C. so they can have a safe and enjoyable time while in the District. Having an effective interoperable communication system makes my job easier because I can seamlessly coordinate responses with other agencies. Take a listen as our dispatchers in the Office of Communications talk about multi agency collaboration.
Attending IACP? Learn More:
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) will be hosting their annual conference October 6-9th in Orlando Florida. If you are planning to attend the conference please make sure to stop by the Motorola Solutions booth #2201 and learn how interoperable communications makes an officer’s job easier.
The Washington D.C. Office of Unified Communications handles 1.8 million calls per year making it one of the busiest 9-1-1/ 3-1-1 centers in the country. The center serves over 27 law enforcement agencies, including police, fire and EMS. On the non-emergency 3-1-1 side, support is provided to 14 agencies. Check out the Washington D.C. Unified Communications Department Overview Case Study Video.
Jacob Kishter is Commander (Retired), Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
“The week of September 17 was a watershed week for Public Safety,” said Keller Taylor, Infrastructure Operations Manager at Princeton University, Department of Public Safety. Keller and Bob Finney were panelists on the recent NENA webinar, sponsored by Motorola Solutions, in which they shared the impact of the Apple iOS 12 release, Google’s partnership announcement with RapidSOS and the profound impact these events have on saving lives.
Over 80% of the 240 million calls made to 9-1-1 centers across the U.S. are from wireless phones. That’s about 192 million people in need while on the move, making it more critical than ever for PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Point) to know a caller’s exact location. In fact, the FCC estimates 10,000 more lives could be saved every year if 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers had more accurate location information.
“Location accuracy is the #1 priority in being able to effectively and efficiently dispatch resources to those in need,” said Keller. “Today, with the RapidSOS NG911 Clearinghouse, we have an operational solution that utilizes supplemental location information which will speed the identification of the caller’s precise location. This has enormous implications for saving lives.”
“In addition to being able to pinpoint the exact location,” says Bob, “the other big benefit is that 9-1-1 can now dispatch responders to the scene more rapidly.”
Finally, a Solution: RapidSOS Integration with VESTA and CallWorks
The location accuracy solution offers a level of situational awareness not possible until now. Public Safety has had to rely on a network-centric approach to identify a 9-1-1 caller’s location. The reason apps like Uber can identify exactly where we are is because they use device-based hybrid location.
Tests with RapidSOS and Motorola Solutions call handling software have shown that device-based hybrid location indeed provides more accurate location information because it combines the smartphone sensors including: GPS, Wi-Fi access points, Bluetooth beacons, barometric pressure, pedestrian dead reckoning, gyro sensors, accelerometers and more.
The RapidSOS NG911 Clearinghouse is accessed through the VESTA® and CallWorks platforms. This means VESTA and CallWorks customers now have the technology to receive fast and accurate, life-saving location information for millions of iPhone and Android devices in the U.S.
During the webinar, Keller and Bob shared specific examples of how the RapidSOS functionality with VESTA and CallWorks will make the difference between life and death.
Keller talked about the ability to identify a 9-1-1 caller in Princeton University’s Tiger Stadium, in a crowd of thousands of fans. Bob talked about the ability to pinpoint a 9-1-1 call coming from within a school building. He pointed out, that in Collier County, due to the frequency of hurricanes, school buildings are built to Category 5 standards to withstand the hurricanes, but their construction makes it extremely difficult for wireless reception. “Schools, unfortunately, have become targets, and we need much better coverage. In one of the tests we did with VESTA, RapidSOS and Android ELS (Emergency Location Service), the caller was standing right outside of a classroom, and we were able to pinpoint that exact location. In situations like active shooters, having the exact location is very beneficial.”
How PSAPs Access This Technology
Your PSAP can easily realize the benefits of the RapidSOS technology through the use of RapidSOS, CallWorks CallStation and VESTA 9-1-1 and or VESTA® Map Local.
Once PSAPs are enabled, citizens do not need to install any app. When dialing 9-1-1 from their iOS 12 iPhone or Android device with ELS enabled, their location is automatically sent to the RapidSOS NG911 Clearinghouse and accessed by the appropriate 9-1-1 center. The call taker then sees the caller’s location, sent as supplemental location data, from RapidSOS as well as the ALI (Phase 1 or Phase 2 location).
“With this tremendous capability, citizens can have greater confidence in Public Safety’s ability to know their location when they call 9-1-1 from their mobile devices,” said Keller.
Bob closed the webinar with a reminder why it’s so important to take serious note of this development. “9-1-1 gets its fair share of news stories and some are based on location difficulty. What has occurred with Apple and Google is a positive for Public Safety. But PSAPs have to take action and bring this technology into their centers. Otherwise, there will be someone who will die because we didn’t have an accurate location soon enough and none of us want that to happen.”
The team at Motorola Solutions is ready to help you bring this life-saving location data to your call takers and first responders, who need and deserve the best possible technology.
For more information on Motorola Solutions and our CallWorks and VESTA capabilities, visit motorolasolutions.com/ng911. For information on RapidSOS and how to enable the functionality for your PSAP, go to RapidSOS.com/ng911clearinghouse. You can also listen to the NENA webinar here and view the Motorola Solutions Emergency Call Handling video on YouTube.
Dan Sawicki is Principal Consultant of Business Operations and Planning at Motorola Solutions.
It was a nightmare scenario: John Smith (name is changed) the director of a mid-size Midwest PSAP (Public-Safety Access Point), got a call in the middle of the night. His IT manager said there was a possible DDoS attack. Workstations and mobile data began to lock up quickly as the attack spread.
John’s first thought: we just invested in a bunch of anti-virus software and bought new, state of the art firewall and hardware solutions. How did this happen?
John’s experience is one faced by PSAP directors around the country and serves as a cautionary tale from a recent article authored by Motorola Solutions: An Introduction to Cybersecurity for the PSAP.
The article argues that too many PSAPs, like John’s, focus solely on software and hardware solutions instead of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. While technology is important, so are well-defined processes and fully trained staff. A thorough understanding and implementation of best practices from standards bodies such as APCO, NENA, CJIS, NIST, and others are also critical.
The article serves a high-level guide to help readers implement an end-to-end cybersecurity solution based on the NIST Cybersecurity framework, including technology, processes, and people.
One of the most important aspects of an end-to-end cyber strategy, according to the article, is getting a handle on its overall scope. PSAPs must define the systems and data to protect, looking at systems such as CAD, reporting, and telecom and especially often overlooked systems such as radio, mobile data applications and devices, access control systems, and IIoT devices. Once the full cybersecurity scope is defined, along with a full understanding of risks and threats, cybersecurity processes can be developed and put into place.
Well-run PSAPs closely adhere to a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs). Cybersecurity should be no different. A well-constructed SOP ensures smooth operations, especially during times of crisis, while helping to manage risk and liability. The SOPs also form the foundation for an employee training program, creating a written record that ensures everyone is clear on their responsibilities and roles within the cyber strategy.
People are the most important element in any cybersecurity strategy. That’s why it’s so important for all employees, not just the IT department, to understand their roles and be able to carry out their responsibilities according to the cyber SOP. Ongoing employee training and testing as well as continuously refreshed risk assessments are critical pieces of the SOP and integral to a successful cybersecurity strategy.
NIST Security Framework
Fortunately, the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) designed a framework to help agencies create cybersecurity strategies. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework defines the technologies, processes, and people necessary to create a PSAP SOP and provides guidance on five key areas: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover.
For PSAP Director John Smith, and other men and women throughout the country facing the same challenges, a detailed and complete end-to-end cybersecurity solution based on the NIST Framework is the best defense against cyber threats. By integrating technology with processes and people, PSAPs can take a proactive approach to cyber security and will never have to wonder how a devastating breach could have threatened their operations.
Read the full article, An Introduction to Cybersecurity for the PSAP.
Marilyn Barrios is the Senior Cybersecurity Training Specialist at Motorola Solutions.
April 8 – 14 is designated as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week to honor 9-1-1 Emergency Call Takers and Dispatchers who serve as the lifeline to thousands each day who need help. 9-1-1 service has been a part of our lives for 50 years, and this is the one week each year dedicated to recognizing the importance of the work these men and women do. However, the role they play in our communities is critical to remember and appreciate every day.
It takes a special kind of person who is expert at facing a workshift full of unpredictability, having tremendous patience and dealing with tons of stress. The role requires being detail oriented, quick, courteous and calm during the chaos of emergencies…and, their actions may mean the difference of life and death.
The dedicated service of these hidden heroes, who are the essential link between law enforcement and emergency response personnel, is priceless and vitally important. At Motorola Solutions, we are humbled and proud to work alongside thousands of PSAPs and Emergency Communications Centers and to equip Call Takers and Dispatchers with the tools to successfully answer calls for service including CallWorks, VESTA, PremierOne and Spillman Flex.
Thank you, First, First Responders for all that you do!Dan Twohig is the Vice President of Software Enterprise at Motorola Solutions.
On February 16, 1968, the first 9-1-1 call was placed by Senator Rankin Fite in Haleyville, Alabama. Before this time, if someone had an emergency, they would dial “0” for the operator or call the local station. It wasn’t until the Public Safety Act of 1999 that 9-1-1 was officially established as the nation’s emergency calling number.
Back in 1968, AT&T was the telephone service provider for most of the United States, and rotary phones were predominantly used. For those of you who never used a rotary phone before, YouTube demos highlight what it was like to place a call.
The 9-1-1 system is now so familiar that most people don’t even think about it, until an emergency happens. 9-1-1 remains a vital part of everyday crime-fighting, fire and emergency medical response, as well as the management of major events and the response to natural disasters. Legacy 9-1-1 systems installed decades ago are based on analog circuit-switched technology used in the Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTN), and remain the backbone of how calls are delivered.
While not much has changed with the technology in use, what has changed is how calls to 9-1-1 are placed.
Approximately 240 million 9-1-1 calls are placed a year with 80% of calls using cellular phones. With the proliferation of smart devices now in use, new technology colliding with old infrastructure can have major implications in call processing speed, flexibility to route calls, and location accuracy by PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Points) when help is needed most.
9-1-1 services need to grow beyond voice to save seconds and lives.
Public safety agencies recognize the need to improve supporting requests for assistance and face many challenges in transforming how they can respond faster and smarter. The efforts of the NG9-1-1 Institute, APCO International, NENA and iCERT organizations place the critical needs of public safety in the forefront to achieve the true promise of Next Generation 9-1-1 -- helping first responders do a better job and protect the well-being of the communities served.
The next 50 years: accelerating transformation.
NG9-1-1 will eventually replace the current 9-1-1 systems allowing citizens to send text messages, photos, videos, and other digital information to public safety agencies to respond more safely and effectively. Motorola Solutions is proud to be working alongside public safety agencies for 90 years, innovating mission-critical communications, and providing service and support for call-taking and dispatch solutions for over 30 years, including PremierOne and Spillman Flex. Our expansion investment with CallWorks and pending acquisition of Airbus DS Communications, along with our partnership with RapidSoS, are designed to help agencies accelerate beyond NG9-1-1 and expand their capabilities with enhanced intelligence for improved response and safety.
Over these past 50 years, 9-1-1 has saved thousands of lives thanks to the many heroes who helped answer the calls. As technology rapidly evolves, Next Generation 9-1-1 delivers the flexibility and tools needed to effectively and efficiently support operations and achieve the best possible outcome for years to come.
Dan Sawicki is Principal Strategy Consultant, Emergency Call Handling.