CALNENA – 3-1-1 is Here!

California Trials

Whether you think it friend or foe, 3-1-1 is here. As you are probablyaware, the national NENA organization has adopted a position of reservedjudgment on 3-1-1, that, at best 3-1-1 should be a local decision. In aletter to President Bill Clinton, then President John Ellison stated that”the nation’s 9-1-1 system is not overloaded. While some jurisdictionsmay have severe problems, the problem is not national in scope. “

Nonetheless, the juggernaut was released, and prudent public policy requiresthat we recognize that there is a degree of need requiring a thoughtfulresponse and recommendation to our communities on how to proceed.

To this end, Attorney General Dan Lundgren convened a task force of federal,state and local officials to review and recommend how to proceed with 3-1-1in California. A report prepared by The Warner Group will be given to theAttorney General, providing a blue print on how to make 3-1-1 an effectivepartner to 9-1-1.

In cooperation with several public agencies and telephone carriers, theState 9-1-1 Program is coordinating trials of the 3-1-1 non- emergency number.AB1198 (Hertzberg) was signed by Governor Pete Wilson last month, authorizing$200,000 for trial sites. The initial site will be in San Jose, which goeslive on November 19, 1997. Los Angeles and Santa Barbara will follow whenadditional funds are allocated in the next fiscal year.

There are three approaches to delivering 3-1-1 services:

  • The 9-1-1 Overlay 3-1-1 System, as proposed by GTE, provides access to existing hardware, software and databases to provide for the delivery of a robust 3-1-1 system. Actually a mirror image of the 9-1-1 system, it does not require the maintenance of a separate data base, providing the ability to deliver ANI and ALI to the 3-1-1 call center. This proposal will be evaluated is anticipated in Santa Barbara County.
  • The Network 3-1-1 System, as proposed by AT&T, provides a technology utilizing the public switched network to deliver calls to the appropriate police agency via the 800 system. That allows for selective routing using a data base managed by SCC. ANI would be available through Caller ID, but ALI is not part of the trial proposal in Los Angeles.
  • The Hybrid 3-1-1 System, as proposed by Pacific Bell, employs technologies from the other systems. The existing 9-1-1 selective router data bases would be replicated, and the call traffic would be carried on designated exchange lines, rather than on 9-1-1 trunks, terminating at the police agency on a Centrex or business line. This is the approach being tested in the San Jose trial.

AB1198 requires a report to the legislature on each of the trials. Inthe evaluation and analysis of working systems, the pros and cons of eachtechnology will be identified. Unsatisfactory characteristics of any newsystem will be modified, or perhaps the system itself would have to be replaced.Study points include the actual impact on the volume of non-emergency callsreceived on 9-1-1, citizen acceptance, and general benefit to the community.

In addition to the technical trials of 3-1-1, AB1198 calls for comparisonstudies of how an effective public education campaign of existing 7-digitnon-emergency telephone numbers might reduce the number of inappropriate9-1-1 calls.

Keep in mind, however, that the ultimate goal of 3-1-1 is not just torelieve the burden on 9-1-1, but also to improve the ability of the publicto contact their law enforcement agency on routine matters.

The philosophy of Community Oriented Policing requires active publicinvolvement, reporting neighborhood problems, nuisances, etc., as well asemergencies. The COPS officers work a particular neighborhood, getting toknow the residents and businesses, and facilitate resolution to problemswhich tend to grow into emergencies.

Considering the myriad of law enforcement jurisdictions throughout thestate, it is next to impossible to expect the public to remember the non-emergency7-digit telephone number for their police or sheriff’s department. Manydon’t even know for sure what jurisdiction they live in, underscoring theneed for a common number throughout the state.

The 3-1-1 trials will reveal the better technological solution, but inthe long run, how it is employed needs to be a local issue. Some agencieswill focus only on reducing their 9-1-1 call volume, while others will wantto develop their COPS program, and others will want to establish a fullservice government call center where the public can request assistance fromany city or county agency through a common number.

Regardless of the outcome, CALNENA needs to be involved in guiding thedevelopment and implementation of 3-1-1. We must make sure that 3-1-1 doesnot in any way detract from the delivery of 9-1-1, and in fact, we needto find ways to make sure that it enhances the effectiveness of 9-1-1.