The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays, and not just because I enjoy warm weather, fireworks, and any excuse to consume large quantities of cheeseburgers. No, it stands out for me because it’s rare that I stop to remember the efforts of our founding fathers and what they accomplished against tremendous odds. I particularly admire their defiance and rebellion against the status quo and willingness to debate and grapple with difficult topics that led eventually to the freedoms I take for granted every day.
The personal and professional merged for me when I learned that the highest number of 911 calls occur on this holiday. Like many of us, I’ve taken 911 for granted and, until I worked in the industry, never gave much thought to how it works–and why it sometimes doesn’t work as it should.
911 turns 52 next February and is, in some ways, starting to show its middle age. Even with emerging regulations to correct its flaws, the technology hasn’t kept up with our widespread use of smartphones, apps, and VoIP technology. The upgrading of our country’s 911 infrastructure through the adoption of Next Generation 911 technology lags behind in some regions, and 911 call takers themselves struggle with severe stress and burnout.
In spite of this, Im optimistic. In the past few years, I’ve seen new solution providers enter this industry, inspired by events covered in the media and committed to addressing these challenges. Some are safety-focused like residential or DIY security companies, personal safety app providers, and smart city visionaries. Others just see an opportunity to make us safer, even when they’re not bound by any state or federal mandates to do so.
Through devices, platforms, and software, these companies can embed emergency calling into the tools and apps we interact with every day. They provide more options for how and when we can request emergency assistance. When these companies approach Bandwidth, they don’t always have a deep understanding of 911 at first and may or may not manage a complex VoIP telephony infrastructure. They are, however, experts at leveraging technology to solve problems, and they have a critical understanding of how their users engage with that technology. They partner with us because they have a great idea and just need that “last mile” to connect their users with public safety in an emergency.
The 911 industry needs more of this type of collaboration–new approaches and ideas matched with solution providers who understand how 911 and public safety works. Implemented responsibly, and with full awareness of the potential impacts to public safety and users, I believe this is the best way forward to solve our 911 challenges. It’s not going to be easy and it’s going to require ongoing discussion and debate, but I know we’ll figure it out.