Lessons from Alabama’s NG911: Cutting edge can cut both ways

20 Dec

From GCN

By William Jackson

Alabama has brought seven of the state’s 115 public safety answering points onto its new Next Generation Emergency Network (ANGEN) over the last two months, handling wireless 911 calls from one carrier, T-Mobile.

Original expectations were that as much as 90 percent of the state’s 911 traffic would be handled by the IP network by this time.

But 18 months into the multiphase 18-month project, completion is still two to three years off, said Jason Jackson, executive director of the Alabama 911 Board, which is overseeing ANGEN.“It has taken us a lot of time to accomplish Phase 1,” Jackson said. “And it’s still not done.”

The problem is not with the technology or the network itself, which is operated by the state’s supercomputer authority. It was primarily a matter of overly optimistic scheduling, Jackson said.

“We had some carriers who realized they were not ready” to move their 911 traffic to the new system, he said. And building out last-mile connections for some of the PSAPs and providing them with IP switches also took longer than expected. “There are not that many models to follow at this time.”

That is the drawback of being on the cutting edge of new technology. When complete, ANGEN will be one of the nation’s first statewide IP networks for 911 routing. With the roll-out now underway, Jackson said the primary lesson he has learned from the program is to set realistic goals.

“Perception is reality,” he said. “Unfortunately that is true.” That means grand plans should be broken into a number of small steps with attainable milestones to help ensure success and maintain support as the program progresses.

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