Next Gen 911 Doesn’t Have a Final Destination, But Lack of Funding is Slowing the Adoption Journey

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The transformation of emergency response systems through Next Gen 911 represents a critical evolution in public safety technology, enhancing emergency response capabilities with features like GPS tracking, live video, and real-time translation. As we move away from the outdated copper wire systems first implemented in the 1960s, the disparity between our personal devices and the tools available to emergency responders becomes glaringly apparent. The adoption of Next Gen 911 technologies, though, is still moving at a snail’s pace.

For example, after the initiative first became a planned national project in 2000, Washington State implemented its first next generation system in Grant County…in December of 2023. A 20+ year turnaround is clearly not a testament to efficiency and execution. What’s holding Next Gen 911 back? And is it even practical to think about it as a transformation that has an endpoint or a final destination?

Spoken about as a priority for the emergency response and public safety industries for years now, a lack of focused adoption initiatives and inconsistent funding support is keeping the Next Gen 911 project at a general standstill. The Next Generation 911 Act of 2023, proposed by U.S. Representatives Anna Eshoo and Richard Hudson, is one solution floating in the halls of D.C., aiming to allocate $15 billion to modernize local 911 call centers. The bill provides a crucial funding source after previous attempts fell flat, such as the failed Spectrum Innovation Act.

Beyond dollars, what will it take for Next Gen 911 to see more progress as an initiative across the U.S.? Sara Weston, PMP, ENP, a renowned public safety advocate and the founder of 911der Women, puts a focus on the need for effective leadership within the 911 community to maneuver significant hurdles holding back Next Gen 911, predominantly funding and political challenges that stymie progress and innovation.

“We’ve been talking about Next Gen 911 for over 20 years. I think that’s because Next Gen 911 is not a destination. It’s always what’s next, what’s coming. We’re never going to get there because technology continues to evolve. And 911 needs to evolve with it,” Weston said.

Article written by Daniel Litwin.

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