In an emergency, how long is too long?
Every moment counts in life-or-death situations such as medical emergencies, physical safety threats and natural disasters. The seconds between dialing 911 and connecting to a public safety dispatcher can feel like the longest of our lives — especially when handoffs between Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) can cause delays. At Nokia, we’re taking steps to make E911 services more responsive than ever.
Saving lives with more precise call routing
Enhanced 911 (E911) technology gave emergency response a boost by automatically sending location information to operators, providing potentially lifesaving details in cases where the caller can’t speak.
In the United States, E911 systems use preconfigured mapping to route calls from the receiving cell tower to the nearest Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), which dispatches the appropriate emergency services. The process usually takes about two seconds. But in some locations, the range of a receiving cell tower may span multiple PSAP boundaries, requiring calls to be transferred between PSAPs to get closer to the person in need — creating dispatch delays.
Location-based routing (LBR) powered by Nokia’s Mobile Advanced Location System (MALS) reduces these time gaps. Using advanced algorithms, validation policies and a geospatial engine, the system pinpoints a caller’s exact location and instantly routes their E911 call to the nearest appropriate PSAP.
In December 2020, T-Mobile became the first U.S. wireless carrier to launch location-based routing, and reduced PSAP call transfers in areas of Texas and Washington State by 40 percent. The company is now working with 911 authorities to expand the capability nationwide.
Enriching E911 with multimedia
Accommodating multimedia content is another way first response technology is evolving to improve public safety. Through the Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) initiative, authorities in the United States and Canada are modernizing and upgrading their countries’ legacy analog infrastructures — which are limited to voice calls and Teletype (TTY/RTT) – to a digital IP-based multimedia emergency services communication system.
In the case of a heart attack, seizure or burglary, IP-based emergency communications can save lives by providing first responders with instant real-time assistance remotely through chat, photos or video before help arrives on scene.
NG911 will extend 911 capabilities with IP-based technologies such as 3GPP LTE and IP Multimedia Services (IMS) to support high-bandwidth data services. Callers will be able to transmit voice, pictures, video, enhanced messaging and other rich multimedia data to next-generation (NG) PSAPs when requesting emergency assistance.
Those NG PSAPs themselves will also be able to use rich multimedia content to better inform first responders of the exact nature of an emergency so they can respond more effectively.
Connecting emergency services to the Internet of Things
Imagine the number of lives that could be saved if cars automatically alerted emergency services when a crash incapacitated everyone inside, or if a smart health device automatically alerted an ambulance or health care professionals on sensing a crisis in the person wearing it. Consider the property losses that might be prevented if fire detection systems could summon fire crews automatically even as they warn on-site personnel.
NG911 and solutions such as Nokia MALS are bringing these opportunities closer to reality. And not only in North America. The European Emergency Number Association (EENA) is working toward similar goals with its next-generation 112 architecture, with many more under way around the world.
When lives are at risk, speed and precision are critical. Through innovations such as location-based networking, Nokia is helping public safety authorities respond to emergencies faster and more effectively than ever before.