A New 911 Thumb

play in the same sandbox."

As the architecture is upgraded, the country shouldn't have 911 haves and have-nots, which has been the case in the past: "When we moved to enhanced 911, the rural areas were the last to get it, and when changes were made to handle wireless calls, the rural areas got those last too," Bradshaw said. Policymakers must advocate for the NG 911 architecture and ensure all U.S. call centers get the tools and training to utilize it, she said.

Hixson said NENA's volunteer groups are working to define the features expected of an NG 911 PSAP and the related data protocol standards. For instance, the systems are expected to transfer all data they receive to another agency in the appropriate NENA or Internet data exchange standard format. He admits that the process is time-consuming: "The frustration is, we should have more done by now, and the pace isn't fast enough. There's too much to do in too short a time frame."

Looking back, he said the worst part of how wireless and VoIP were added to the 911 system was that it took several years to accomplish.

"That's not really acceptable," Hixson said. "The next time we have a major innovation in telecom - we need it to be a matter of weeks or months - not years, before we work it into the 911 system."

David Raths  |  contributing writer