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The Next Generation 9-1-1 Administrator: The Need For Position Diversity

Author: Bruce Thorburn

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2012-11-20
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In Lewis Carroll’s Classic book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” the title character, Alice, meets up with an enigmatic character named The Cheshire Cat. Alice is in a quandary as to how and where to proceed on her journey and asks the Cat which path she should take to which The Cat replies that he’d need to know where she was going. Alice answers that it doesn’t matter, to which The Cat answers that it, then, really doesn’t matter which path you take.  This is very much where we re today in the progression of Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1).

The NENA Standards are pretty well in place with the assistance of the best minds in E9-1-1 development and operations. The manufacturers are producing hardware and software solutions to meet with the Standards and demands. The network providers are installing and re-developing IP Network solutions to handle the voice, data, and video traffic present and anticipated-future. The databases providers are re-creating data solutions that add features to the emerging needs of a truly mobile environment as well as answering the needs and requirements of ADA.The training entities are developing training protocols to address the impacts to Telecommunicators for the varied impacts of this technology.

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All of these challenges are facing the 9-1-1 administrators, coordinators, directors, and/or managers, regardless of the designated title, as well as forcing them to decide how and when to proceed; and how to fund them. These issues are forcing these professionals to attempt to wear many cloaks or, at best, to become multi-faceted in their technical, budgetary, and operations and training knowledge and abilities in order to most effectively respond to the changes. Due to these realities they need to be systemically diversified in their knowledge and/or abilities.

Firstly, the 9-1-1 administrators need to be historians and planners. As historians they need the background knowledge as to how 9-1-1 has progressed from basic 9-1-1; to E9-1-1; on to wireless and VOIP 9-1-1; and now NG9-1-1. Without a comprehensive understanding of the systems progression, too many mistakes can be made in the planning, purchasing, installation, and management/maintenance of these complex systems.


As planners, administrators must decide whether to follow the traditional paths of replacing CPE and software; upgrading or replacing networks; implementing new operations procedures; ensuring initial and continued training on all of the parts; ensuring that revenues meet the requirements of expenditures or to investigate new and/or innovative means to accomplish the task.

Many agencies are actively looking or progressing with host systems integration in the belief that buying, continually upgrading, and maintaining systems hardware, software, and networks is both costly and antiquated at a per-PSAP LAN (Local Area Network) environment lieu of a systemic approach to MAN (Municipality Area Network), WAN (Wide Area Network), or (to coin a term) TAN (Terra Area Network – which might describe a state to state, or larger, involvement).

It is my belief that there can be many levels of fiscal savings by using the availability of technological improvements to reduce hardware and software needs; improve features on databases; and allow for consistent training and operations. All of these things will benefit E9-1-1; allow for the response to an ever-growing mobile population (while recognizing the decline of traditional analog wired technology); and provide for an environment of administrative simplicity for 9-1-1 administrators.

Secondly, NG9-1-1 Administrators must be IT (Information Technology) specialists or must hire persons with these capabilities. To be an effective administrator in the complex environment of NG9-1-1 a basic knowledge of hardware, software, IP networking, relational databases, cyber security, and training and operations protocols these individuals either adapt or will probably become fiscally and management impaired. It is just improbable to believe that one can administer an intricate system of technologically advanced components without either having base knowledge of them or acquire the needed expertise either in house, from a consulting service, or through a services provider.

The acquisition of consulting or reliable services provider capabilities is far more valuable to an agency as it reduces the need for ongoing salary, benefits, office space, support materials and equipment, and training and re-training. It also allows for a wider range of expertise availability from area experts in the many areas of the NG9-1-1 machine.

Thirdly, the NG9-1-1 administrator must be an adequate accountant, budget analyst, and revenue producer in order to ensure accounts receivables and payables, revenues and expenditures accuracy, and fiscal prognostication for future needs and/or impacts.

Again, this person must be able to adopt both short and long range plans for emergencies, growths, replacements or technology impacts, and budgetary shortfalls (especially important in these fiscal times for states and local governments).

As funding resources are diminished and with little hope of increases in funding mechanisms through increased taxation, this NG9-1-1 administrator must be revenue aware. In order to do this these persons must be pro-active in educating citizens and government officials if the costs versus benefits of  the NG9-1-1 services; be progressive in enabling legislative reforms; and to search and apply for any available grants and aid from federal and state programs (particularly in conjunction with one or more other associated agencies).

Thirdly, the NG9-1-1 administrator should be a developer who is actively involved in the creation and re-creation of operations manuals for training and the development of a Standard Operating Procedure/Guide (SOP/SOG) that is indigenous to each participating PSAP/agency as well as for the principle controlling agency or board.

Both APCO and NENA have done admirable work in these areas at a national level; but local area needs, politics, and individual agency needs and/or desires precipitate the need to individualize SOPs/SOGs at the state or local level. This will require the research and development (as well as well-planned updating of documents) to ensure the highest level of accuracy and participation by all of the partners. Indeed, many areas of the country have seen amazing returns in the decline of turnover and systems/operations failures as a result of implementing reasonable and effective SOP/SOG programs.

Finally, the NG9-1-1 administrator must be or become an educator/trainer who should be both well aware of the implications of proper training, re-training, and coaching; and prepared to take the appropriate action toward this end. Well trained staff virtually assures many levels of liability protection in the event of litigation. Well trained staff have better self-worth in their positions and identities; and are, thus, better suited to the rigors of the telecommunicator environment which reduces absenteeism and turnover.

In addition, the NG9-1-1 administrator should recognize the value-added feature of call analytics and Quality Assurance (QA) to a smoothly operating NG9-1-1 system. These features can be done through Management of Information Systems (MIS) or at the back end of the process at the recorder(s). This ensures a single point of collection, analysis, and reporting for voice, data, video, and screen printing of all ANI, ALI, and ancillary data submission.

As the Cheshire Cat suggested, one must decide the destination; and then the path becomes more easily recognizable.

Bruce Thorburn has been in the 9-1-1 Community since 1982, including five years with Orange County, Florida as their Database Manager, and 23 years with Lake County, Florida performing as E9-1-1/Addressing, Telecommunications, and Cable Television Regulatory Authority and Director. Bruce has also been the Legislative Liaison for Florida NENA since 1995 and been on the State Plan Technical Committee for Florida from its inception.


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