NENA News–September 1997


US Attorney General Janet Reno Urges ADA Compliance in 9-1-1

A historic moment occurred at the 1997 Annual Conference in Baltimore: U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno gave the opening address. This personal appearance by a highly placed government official confirms that NENA is a leading force in providing emergency services.

The focus of Reno’s address was the importance of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, now almost seven years old. It is one of her top priorities at the Department of Justice and its enforcement has already had a dramatic effect. Many doors have been opened and barriers removed for the 49 million people in the United States who have disabilities.

People with disabilities depend on 9-1-1 professionals for their safety. If access to 9-1-1 is denied or delayed, the results can be disastrous. Reno said, “We know how to make 9-1-1 services accessible to people with disabilities and together I think we can do it for all Americans.”

Reno expressed appreciation of NENA’s efforts in ADA compliance. She said, “A great deal of credit has to go to caring conscientious professionals like yourselves, fully committed to making 9-1-1 accessible to everyone. NENA has been very active in promoting compliance with the ADA by its members. Because of you, far more people now have access.”

Reno also commended NENA Accessibility Chair Toni Dunne, of the Texas 9-1-1 Commission, for her work in educating NENA members about the ADA, and said that she has been an invaluable resource to the Justice Center.

As she enforces the ADA, Reno looks at it as a three-stage process:

1) To reach out and educate people regarding the requirements of the law, and why it is important to comply;

2) To try to negotiate with those who don’t comply by looking at alternative ways of complying, and trying to reach a common understanding; and

3) To litigate vigorously if necessary.

During her service as Attorney General, Reno has placed special emphasis on educating localities regarding the importance of accessible 9-1-1 service. In the fall of 1995, all 94 of the U.S. Attorney offices throughout the country distributed educational material to the 9-1-1 providers in their districts which explained the basics of ADA compliance for emergency service providers and how easy it is to comply, making 9-1-1 service fully accessible to people with disabilities.

Her office has also initiated a nationwide project of 9-1-1 compliance reviews. This initiative embraces the entire Department of Justice. They have completed compliance reviews of forty 9-1-1 centers already, and in the coming months, will be working with many 9-1-1 centers across the country to ensure that their services are available to people with disabilities. Reno said that she will not rest until all 5,000 9-1-1 providers across the country are fully accessible.

Her staff has found that many centers are not in compliance, sometimes because they lack the necessary equipment to provide access, and in other cases because of a lack of training. She stated that the Department of Justice believes that there must be one TDD per call taking position in most centers, and noted that it is important to treat all silent calls as TDD calls. In all centers not in compliance, the Department of Justice is negotiating formal compliance agreements. Where attempts at persuasion have not been successful in generating voluntary compliance, the DOJ has not hesitated to bring a lawsuit.

Reno stressed the importance of NENA and the Department of Justice working together to ensure that all individuals have access to 9-1-1. She asked for NENA’s suggestions on how the Department of Justice can work with NENA as a partner to improve training and address questions about the necessary equipment to make 9-1-1 accessible to all.

Questions and suggestions regarding the ADA may be addressed to the U.S. Attorney for your district and Reno urged the audience to make sure their own operations are accessible.

In closing, Reno recognized the hard work, commitment, and professionalism of the 9-1-1 community by saying, “I know on a very limited basis from my work in Miami [as a chief prosecutor] the tremendous work that you do, the patience that you demonstrate day in and day out, the careful attention to every detail, to the tone of voice of the caller, to all that must be done to provide emergency services and on behalf of all Americans, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

NENA’s Public Service Announcement Debuts at Annual Conference: Dave Thomas serves as spokesperson

As reported in the summer Connections, Dave Thomas, founder and CEO of Wendy’s International, is serving as NENA’s spokesman in a public service announcement (PSA) educating the public on when to call 9-1-1. NENA is proud to work with a nationally recognized and respected individual to get our message out.

There are two versions of the PSA, one 30 seconds long, the other 15 seconds. Dave is using his leverage to help get the announcements on the air and they are currently being shown in larger markets where more non-emergency calls to 9-1-1 are made.

A video introduction to the PSA was also filmed for the Annual Conference debut. Dave addressed the attendees as follows:

“Hi, I’m Dave Thomas. I’m proud to be associated with NENA. I had an emergency and 9-1-1 was there for me. I want to do something in return, so we made this Public Service Announcement. I hope you can use this in your community to help save lives.”

The script for the 30-second announcement follows:

“9-1-1 is for true emergencies when every second counts. When I had an emergency, my family called 9-1-1 and here’s the team that helped us.

9-1-1 can serve you better if you call only in an emergency.

Know when to call:

To report a fire
To stop a crime
To save a life

Help your 9-1-1 team. Know when to call.”

The PSAs are professionally produced and have superior footage of fire trucks, police and EMS vehicles responding to emergency calls.

To find out how to get the announcement on the air in your market, call NENA headquarters at 1-800-332-3911.

Public Awareness and Enhanced 9-1-1
by Philip A. Bruley

Your Emergency Services Center has spent months of planning and laying the groundwork for the new Enhanced 9-1-1 system. Now you begin implementing address and street name changes to build your data bases. Everything seems to be going fine when…

…Complaints, questions, community concerns. “Why is my address changing?” “I don’t need a street address, my address has always been RR 2.” “Why did you hire an out-of-state consultant for this when we have people out of work here?” “What is E9-1-1 anyway and why do we need it?”

It is human nature to resist change. Most people would rather stay with what is comfortable than to make even a slight change; especially when they have no input or information. The key to fostering support and involvement from your community for your E9-1-1 project is to sell the benefits and keep the public informed through a well-planned public awareness campaign.

Public awareness is disseminating information of news value to the public as a means of gaining public attention and support for a person, cause or organization. The kind and amount of information the community receives will determine how they perceive your E9-1-1 project. The goal should be to heighten awareness and facilitate public cooperation and participation.

A successful public awareness campaign for E9-1-1 should be completed in three phases. The first phase is the planning period prior to project implementation. Let the community know Enhanced 9-1-1 is coming, what it will involve, the benefits, how it will affect them and what they can do to aid in project success. Ask that they complete and return any information delivered to them in a timely manner and to support new ordinances, such as addressing and road naming. This is also a good time to remind your community of 9-1-1 procedures such as how and when to call, non-emergency contact numbers and teaching children how to use 9-1-1.

The second phase should be during actual project implementation. During this phase, continue to sell the benefits of E9-1-1 to the community while keeping them informed of the progress. Stress community involvement and benefits again during this phase. Be sure to keep the residents informed of progress and developments. Stress the importance of compliance with the changes and requests for information.

The final phase is your ongoing public awareness campaign after you have successfully installed your E9-1-1 system. Decide what aspects of your public awareness campaign worked best and continue to use them. You want to continually remind the public of 9-1-1 procedures and to inform them of any 9-1-1 related interests.

If your organization does not have a publicity person or department, you should appoint an individual to accomplish this. It is important this person is in a position to know what is going on at all times with your project and able to present it in a positive manner.

There are several methods you may use in your public awareness campaign. Each one may be used during any of the three phases. What you use may be dependent on budget and other constraints. Remember, though, to be successful, your public awareness project should include several of these.

Postal Advisory Committee: Many communities have Postal Advisory Committees made up of retired postal workers. These groups are excellent in getting out news involving addressing and mail delivery to the community. Inform them of the project and ask for ideas on getting the public aware.

An important key to a successful Enhanced 9-1-1 project is to be sure residents have posted their addresses correctly. An excellent way to include residents, emergency departments and businesses jointly is to develop a program to aid with compliance. Ask a local hardware store to supply house numbers for posting addresses at reduced or no cost to the community. If they cannot donate them at no cost, then solicit donations from other local businesses to help cover costs. Then find a group in the community who will post these numbers on the house for the residents. Volunteer Fire Departments usually work best as they know the community and have a good reputation.

Use a mass mailing or a full newspaper page to inform residents of the service. Include the list of businesses who helped make it possible. State that the VFD members will come to their house and post their numbers professionally and correctly. Your may offer this as a free service. A better option is to offer it and request a few dollars donation. You may want to exclude from charging the elderly. Once the resident receives their new address notice, they may call and request the service.

The Volunteer Fire Department or other organization may keep the donations to use for their own projects. In addition, they receive the benefit of seeing firsthand road name and number changes they will have to adjust to with the new E9-1-1 system. The businesses get some positive exposure and a possible tax write-off. The residents get their numbers posted, an especially helpful benefit for elderly or invalid residents. The municipality and 9-1-1 Center get a project that spreads awareness and fosters teamwork. Everybody wins.

One county in Western Pennsylvania found their Enhanced 9-1-1 project created an immediate need for hundreds of new street signs. So they purchased new sign making equipment. They then took the time to teach the participants of a local workshop for disabled adults how to make the signs. The county workshop receives a few dollars for each sign and receives the benefits of increased self-esteem for its participants through a job they can take pride in doing. The county receives the benefit of having the signs produced locally at a reduced cost to the community. The community receives the benefit of having current and uniform signs.

These are only two examples of how to integrate teamwork and support. Look to your local organizations to help with ideas and means of creatively gaining exposure and support for your project.

You should approach your entire public awareness campaign with this same win-win attitude. Undertaking an Enhanced 9-1-1 project is a tremendous task. To be successful, it requires that the public understands, supports and is willing to participate in the project. This can be accomplished by taking the time to design and implement a winning public awareness program.

Philip A. Bruley is Manager, E9-1-1 Systems for Aerial Images, Inc. He has served as consultant/contractor for national and international E9-1-1 projects. He can be reached at [email protected].

NENA’s Technical Committee Organization and Purpose
by Billy Ragsdale, NENA Technical Liaison

We are in an era of unprecedented technological changes that seems to have no boundaries nor governor to set pace to how fast changes take place or how far reaching they become. 9-1-1 has been impacted greatly over the past few years with the coming of wireless technologies, 9-1-1 ISDN, CCS7(SS7), LNP, new LECs, NPA exhaustion just to name a few. It is imperative that 9-1-1 advances with these new technologies and takes advantage of all they will offer in order to improve our abilities of providing emergency services. As we move into these new technologies we must maintain the quality and reliability that is standard in our 9-1-1 systems of today. We must move forward to improve our capabilities, however we must be sure the technology we use is rock solid because lives will be depending on it. The Technical Committee Organization of NENA has a key role and a responsibility to pilot this enormous task.

The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) has become the premiere public safety industry organization for defining technical issues and recommending solutions for technology service providers, equipment manufacturers and industry related standard setting bodies. NENA has established itself as an industry leader in recommending technical solutions and standards that will:

  • enable compatibility of 9-1-1 technologies;

  • minimize costs involved in provisioning and maintaining public safety communications;

  • increase the effectiveness of 9-1-1 call handling and emergency response; and

  • promote teamwork among industry providers of public safety products and services.

The NENA Technical Committees consist of industry experts from both the public and private sectors.

Each year the incumbent NENA President consults with the NENA Executive Director and nominates a Technical Advisory Board Chair and a Technical Liaison subject to approval by the NENA Executive Board.

The Technical Advisory Board Chair appoints committee members to serve on the Technical Advisory Board Committee. The Technical Advisory Board should consist of both industry and jurisdictional NENA members having a keen overall knowledge of industry trends and public safety needs.

The Technical Liaison appoints Technical Committee Chairs to focus on select segments of the public safety industry. Although new Technical Committees may be created when warranted, current knowledge requirements and technology complexities have resulted in the establishment of the following Technical Committees:

1. Network Technical Committee

2. Data Technical Committee

3. PSAP/CPE Technical Committee

4. ALEC/PS Technical Committee

Each Technical Committee Chair selects subject matter experts from the NENA membership to serve on the appropriate problem solving team. They may also create special study groups to focus on unique issues that may have a significant technology impact on emergency communications services. Although each member of a Technical Committee must be a NENA member, it is recognized that study groups may need to employ individuals having specialized technological expertise and only limited public safety involvement. In such instances, NENA membership is not necessary.

The Technical Committee Chairs appoint NENA members to serve on their respective committees and coordinate team efforts to:

1. evaluate public safety technology issues;

2. create specialized study groups, as warranted;

3. provide recommendations for technical standards and solutions;

4. work closely with standard setting bodies, when required;

5. respond to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) received from the Web Administrator;

6. assist in establishing Telco/Vendor Conference tracks and in recruiting technical speakers;

7. provide leadership for Telco/Vendor Conference tracks;

8. submit Technical Committee status reports to the NENA President, when requested.

The Technical Liaison role is to coordinate and ensure continuity of technical problem solving efforts and to aid in steering technical issues to the proper Technical Committee for action.

The Technical Liaison is responsible for administering the NENA Standard Process and coordinating technical issues for resolution.

Additional responsibilities are:

1. recruiting technically competent individuals to serve as committee Chairs

2. coordinate Technical Issues and overall direction between technical committees to insure strategic alignment

3. FAQs to the appropriate Technical Committee for response;

4. coordinate Technical Advisory Board responses/concerns with the Technical Committee Chairs and/or the Executive Director.

The Executive Director appoints the Web Administrator to oversee all aspects of the National NENA Internet home page. The Web Administrator will establish a FAQ segment for posting frequently asked questions and related Technical Committee responses. They will consult with the Technical Liaison when technical questions are received, to determine which Technical Committee will need to respond to the FAQ.

The Web Administrator will also post Technical Committee recommendations on the web, when instructed to do so by the NENA Executive Director.

Note: Approved NENA recommended standards will be re-evaluated each year by the authoring Technical Committee to ensure they are still applicable.

Billy Ragsdale is an E9-1-1 Specialist for BellSouth in Atlanta. He can be reached at 404-329-4146.

Chicago’s Emergency Communications Center Meets the Challenge
by Glen A. Funk

The Chicago Emergency Communications Center (CECC) is dedicated to providing the City of Chicago with the finest public safety response operation in the nation. To that end, the CECC recently upgraded both its technical equipment and operational procedures to meet the increased call volume activity levels that normally occur during the summer.

The pace of activity at the Center was fast and furious during the past three months with work on major system improvements and upgrades. Some of the major upgrades include:

Installation of an Oracle Parallel Server to the Communications Front End Computer System (CFCS), and the Police and Fire Computer Aided Dispatch Systems (PCAD and FCAD)

Installation of a Memory Channel Unit (MCU) on FCAD and an increase in processor speed.

Increasing the memory on the Fire and Police DEC Alpha workstations from 64 meg to 128 meg.

Installation of the latest version of the Altaris software on FCAD and PCAD.

All hardware and software changes improve system response times, stability, and overall operations. The MCU/OPS changes provide quick system fail-over and recovery from the active server to the stand-by server when hardware errors occur.

A memory upgrade to the 9-1-1 primary 5ESS telephone switch was performed as well as an upgrade to the next version of the telephone switch software. This work was performed in preparation for local number portability that goes into effect on October 1, 1997 for Chicago residents.

The Center’s mechanical system was upgraded with a make-before-break maintenance bypass switch that was added to the uninterrupted power system. Transient voltage surge suppression was also added.

In the midst of all this activity, a major milestone was accomplished when the Fire Unit of the Center commenced full on-line operations. Prior to going on-line, Fire personnel did double duty operating in both manual and automated environments in order to test all FCAD functions.

The 9-1-1 system not only includes the 108 Police and Fire computer aided dispatch terminals at the Center, but a fully operational back-up facility with 44 terminals (that houses the Police Department’s alternate response program), workstations in 25 Police district stations and 108 Fire houses, over 2,000 Police portable data terminals, and 360 Fire mobile data terminals.

The Center utilizes an Integrated Switched Digital Network (ISDN) with a Signaling System 7 (SS7) protocol. This enables 9-1-1 telephone calls to be delivered to an available call taker within 1.2 seconds of the dialing of the first digit. This, coupled with an average call answering time of two to three seconds, brings the residents of Chicago some of the fastest call answering times in the country.

It must be remembered, however, that even the best system in the world is merely a paperweight without the operators who are the heart and soul of the Center. Chicago’s call takers and dispatchers display the utmost professionalism day in and day out. They are the first line of defense in providing quality public safety services to the people of Chicago. This was especially true on the night of June 13, 1997, when the Chicago Bulls won their fifth NBA championship title.

Upon conclusion of the game, the call volume immediately began to climb. For the first half hour 1,247 calls were received. This was followed by 847 calls the next half hour, and another 2,218 calls in the ensuing two hours for a total number of calls received from 11:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. of 4,312. Ninety three percent (93%) of these calls were answered in twelve seconds or less, and 354 were transferred to Fire. The call volume experienced on Bulls night represented an increase of 129% of the number of calls received on a typical Friday night. The calls transferred to Fire represented a 94% increase. During this same time period, 1,316 dispatches occurred; 30.5% of the calls received. The 9-1-1 system and the people who operate it performed superbly.

Future plans for the Center include the completion of the public viewing areas. There will be a historical display of public safety communications in Chicago as well as a present day interactive display. Visitors will also be afforded the opportunity to view the live operations of the Center from the Public Viewing Gallery. Ongoing in-service training for operations personnel will be provided through a variety of methods including classroom and computer based methods. Systems will continue to be fine-tuned and upgraded as warranted.

If you are in the Chicago area, stop by and see us. We are very proud of our Center, and would like to show you around. To schedule a tour, call 312-746-9140; for further information, call 312-746-9451.

Glen A. Funk is executive director of the Chicago Emergency Communications Center.

Copyright 1997–NENA News Magazine