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9-1-1 Dispatch Technology Lagging - And Susceptible to Hacking

Author: Bill Culhane, BidPrime

Copyright: Copyright 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2016-12-13
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The United States is experiencing a dispatch technology, computer-aided dispatch, and Next Generation 9-1-1 crisis. Be assured, that isn't merely our opinion. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler reported that to Congress earlier this year. According to Wheeler, "Public safety, as embodied by 9-1-1, is dangerously close to a crisis as the digital world passes it by - 21st Century lifesaving is being blocked by 20th Century technology.”

U.S. Senator, Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), may have explained the situation best, stating: "a call to 9-1-1 remains the most [important] call any of us will ever make.” When you need fire, police, or EMS support, chances are you don't want to rely on outdated, troublesome legacy systems that are well past their effective usefulness. Is this really a problem? The following is one example (emphasis on "one") whereby dispatchers in San Francisco faced formidable complications with their technology. Late in 2015, and into early 2016, the Computer Aided Dispatch systems experienced a computer failure at various times. As a result, dispatch personnel were unable to communicate address information to first responders. A problem, yes?

If only outdated, low-tech systems were the only relevant concerns for dispatch communications, first responders, and citizens. Unfortunately, there lurks a multitude of nefarious, bad actors aiming to wreak havoc. If you visit our blog, or listen to these two episodes of 'The Big Bid Theory' podcast, you're aware that we've reported broadly on the topics of information security, cyberterrorism, etc... Lance Hayden, a former CIA spy and info security expert, spoke 1) about the importance of security and on the recent attacks, and 2) how you can protect your systems and the future of cyberterror.

Without question, we aren't the only people discussing and reporting on these topics. As reported in the Washington Post as recently as September, 2016, the 9-1-1 systems aren't immune to the threat of hackers - read the story, "How America’s 9-1-1 emergency response system can be hacked."

That takes us to what is being done currently by the U.S. public sector. While professionals throughout law enforcement and information technology continue to address and grapple with the cyberterrorism component, governments are soliciting and upgrading and/or purchasing modern systems. In the following data, we look back at the past twelve months of procurement activity.


Since November 2015, there have been 620 government bid requests related to dispatch technology, computer-aided dispatch, and Next Generation 9-1-1.

While associated solicitations are being generated broadly from across the country, the following are the five U.S. regions that have submitted the highest numbers of bid requests. BidPrime, an industry leader in the government bid database and research industry, identified and reported that California, Florida, Virginia, Georgia, and Texas are the leading U.S. states (below, left).


The bid requests aren't isolated to the state and local areas within the public sector purchasing spectrum. While the overall numbers are below those of state and local, federal organizations and agencies are actively involved in the solicitation, purchasing, and implementation of pertinent solutions as well. Over the time period analyzed, the breakdown was 508 state and local requests to 112 federal solicitations. The leading federal departments are pictured, above right.

In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to monitor and report on this very important topic. If you live and work in an area that is taking proactive measures, you and your neighbors are fortunate. If your town is still operating with outdated, failing systems, it may be time to ask questions.

The author is Mr. Bill Culhane, VP of Marketing at BidPrime, in Austin, Texas. For more information, call 1.888.808.5356 or visit


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