Coming to Terms With NG911By Christopher Hill, Director of Information Technology, Owen Sound Police ServiceChief Craig Ambrose, Mathew Mahoney (Systems Specialist), Christopher Hill (Director of Information Technology/Project Lead), Fred DeBoard (Systems Specialist), Adam Vaughan (Systems Specialist), Suzanne Bell-Matheson (Director of Corporate Services)” (from left to right)
With the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) release of its Telecom Regulatory Policy 2017-182, the rush was on to come to terms with Next Generation 911 (NG911). What this meant was that NG911 would become one of the largest and varying items to public safety members as well as vendors.Originally set for a date in 2020 for both voice and data availability, the major telecom providers in Canada quickly began laboratory work to bring forth a Canadian version of the ever-improving i3 NENA standard. This standard was initially developed in 2007 and has received numerous improvements including multimedia and real time chat capabilities.In 2018, while attending the NENA Ontario conference, Owen Sound Police Service (OSPS) members connected with a number of vendors and involved parties and returned with a greater understanding of what the end goal looked like in an NG911 world.This started a long and difficult path of determining what was required in technical, financial, procedural, and legal aspects. OSPS currently dispatches for 911 P-PSAP, police, and fire for approximately 350,000 citizens across six police services and 45 fire halls with full dispatch in five counties.After determining that the current phone system would be end of life by the time NG911 would be launched (in theory still in 2020), OSPS senior staff made the decision to purchase new systems designed to work together with proven vendors. This solution would need to complete the tasks of day-to-day administrative calling as well as NG911 dispatch. Given that at the time the cost was entirely on the communication centre, the most proven and cost-effective solution was chosen with OSPS selecting a combination of products from vendors Mitel, Ribbon Communications, and Komutel. Komutel had already been providing many of the Ontario Police Technology Information Co-Operative (OPTIC) with 911 solutions compatible with existing CAD products beginning with E911.With 2019 underway and Covid just looming around the corner, the OSPS installed and configured all the related components required for participating in the NG911 trials with Bell Canada, continuing a trend of innovation. Custom software was developed with vendors through months of trials, creating solutions where they did not yet exist for Canada’s implementation of NG911.Initially, 911 calls were received via the NG911 test center. Once these were successful, transfers with another PSAP (Sherbrooke, QC) were completed. At each step of the way, hours of troubleshooting and documentation from all parties involved would give way to a polished out of the box solution made available to other PSAPs.COVID Hit In 2020, Covid hit the world hard, and this coincided with our service wrapping up the voice trials. Now successful, we found ourselves delayed indefinitely due to postponed available “go-lives” and completion dates month after month. Unable to migrate to the new system, our Service was forced to maintain two systems.As the CRTC released altered timelines for existing enhanced 9-1-1 cancellations, our service began to take calls from PSAPs from around the country. These agencies were beginning to feel the time and financial crunch and needed a firm background of information on their starting and endpoints. Our service existed as one of the few non-profit sources of information and guidance.Working around the pandemic and financial uncertainty with NG911, the OSPS followed two CRTC applications, 2021-404 and 2018-188. These applications allowed for data centres not located at a PSAP to run the systems required for NG9-1-1. It would also allow for NG9-1-1 circuits to be installed at non-PSAP locations (or PSAPs that did not run NG9-1-1 servers) under existing tariffs. Ultimately, OSPS would be able to provide other PSAPs with NG9-1-1 Centrally Located Call Handling Solutions. This would provide a cost-effective option to PSAPs with E9-1-1 today that did not have the technical expertise or financial availability to go it alone.To date, OSPS has signed agreements with 6 PSAPs in Ontario with a dispatched population of over 150,000 residents bringing our service’s responsibility to 500,000 people across seven communications centres across the province.Due to an influx of additional components required for NG911 call handling, our Communications Centre is moving to a new expanded facility elsewhere in the building. This larger facility has additional tools available to the staff including viewing call queues, weather conditions and more in a state-of-the-art environment designed for NG911 with enhanced capabilities and ergonomics designed for expansion.Looking Ahead While NG911 remains a large project for years to come (with legal and technical aspects unknown in regard to real time media and more), it is important to have a solid documented starting point. Speak with your communications staff on workflow/procedural possibilities and seek out other agencies to see what they have been doing and ease of implementation.Once you have your technical baseline and a needs analysis to accomplish your required dispatching procedures, a technical solution can be developed. Always keep in mind all of your requirements such as CAD integration, radio console integration (audio switching for dispatchers who are not solely call-takers), audio recorders, analytics capabilities for quality assurance and more.Forward to today, the OSPS is working with seven PSAPs for on-boarding NG911, capable of taking NG911 calls from specific users for the purposes of training via the Komutel SIT2 softphone interface. We remain committed to our innovation and supporting PSAPs of all sizes for the greater safety of the public we serve.Christopher Hill serves as Director of Information Technology with the Owen Sound Police Service. He can be reached at


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