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NYC Wants to Digitize Emergency Communications With Next Gen 911 Project

City officials have issued an RFP for its Next Generation 911 project, while installing interim text-to-911 capabilities slated to go live in early 2018.

NEW YORK CITY — New York City as issued a request for proposal (RFP) that would make its 911 system fully digital, giving the public the capability interact with emergency responders via text messages, photos, videos, social media and IP-enabled methods of communication.

Released by the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, the nearly 300-page RFP solicits potential vendors to assist in building the underlying infrastructure needed for the upgrades, specifically the IP-based 911 system, govtech.com reports.

The upgrade effort has been dubbed Next Generation 911, and while it is being developed and implemented, the city will also launch an interim system called Text-to-911 in early 2018. The system is intended to provide the public the capability to use text messages to contact 911 instead of a traditional phone call.

This type of 911 system is becoming increasingly common throughout the nation, govtech.com reports. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has estimated that the technology has been adapted by about 650 dispatch centers nationwide, which constitutes roughly 10% of emergency responders in United States. The Next Generation 911 project seeks to provide greater functionality than these text-based systems.

“We have the nation’s largest, busiest and most complex 911 system, which is why we need to be on the leading edge of emergency communications technology — and that’s exactly where Next Generation 911 will take us,” said Anne Roest, commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. “Early next year, New Yorkers will be able to text 911, with much more to come down the road. Ultimately, our system will do more than give New Yorkers new ways to communicate — it will make it easier for the city to continually upgrade and improve 911 as technology evolves in the coming years, and for generations to come.”

The advantages of text-based communications with 911 services are especially relevant for members of the deaf community, as well as for those who are speech-impaired or hard of hearing. The system is also designed to aid crime victims caught in situations where speaking might put them in danger.

Kate Blumm, assistant commissioner for Communications and External Affairs within the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, stressed the importance of this project in the wake of rapid advancements in the ways citizens use technology.

“Our 911 network needs to accommodate this national revolution in the way people are using personal technology,” Blumm said, “and that’s a big part of what this project is all about.”

Proposals are due Aug. 8, and work is targeted to begin in December. Officials hope the Next Generation 911 project will be ready to launch for public use in early 2022.

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