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5 advantages of starting now to prepare for NG9-1-1

Next-generation 9-1-1 will become a reality for Canada in 2025. But there are some major hurdles to overcome in the next three years. This blog post highlights 5 reasons and advantages to your municipality for adapting your operations to the new requirements as soon as possible.

Canada’s Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) initiative is gaining momentum now that 9-1-1 voice traffic has gone live on Emergency Services IP Networks (ESInets) in Bell and Telus territory. Over the next few years, municipalities across the country will make the transition from outdated analogue 9-1-1 infrastructure to these new digital ESInets.

If your municipality wants to continue providing 9-1-1 service, it will have to adapt its operations to meet the new system’s requirements, one of which is a GIS dataset that complies with NENA specifications. Do not underestimate the effort involved here because it is significant. The longer you put it off, the more difficult it will be to properly complete the work on time at a reasonable cost. Although there is currently no fixed deadline for producing a NENA-compliant GIS dataset, it is a critical component for NG9-1-1 geospatial call routing that you will eventually have to put in place. Sooner is better than later.

Here are five major advantages of getting started now on the transition to NG9-1-1:

1. Fewer resource bottlenecks

The CRTC has directed ESInet providers to decommission any 9-1-1 network components that will not be part of their NG9-1-1 networks starting March 4, 2025. If all goes according to plan, the call handling environment will be fully transitioned by that time. On your end, transitioning to NG9-1-1 will mean developing new organizational structures, establishing new processes and procuring new resources.

NG9-1-1 is going to place enormous demands on the Canadian GIS community. With every municipality working on a similar timeline, you will be competing against all of them for GIS expertise. To prevent external bottlenecks, you should immediately start lining up talent from the country’s limited pool of GIS professionals. As service providers grow increasingly busy, municipalities will be forced to wait for resources to become available, which in turn may drive up costs.

By getting started now, you can also avoid in-house bottlenecks caused by competing GIS priorities. Given sufficient lead time, staff will have an opportunity to manage NG9-1-1 preparations during regular business hours, eliminating the need for costly overtime at the last minute.

2. Full allocation of funds in the budget

Your municipality may need to acquire new tools for NG9-1-1, such as GIS-related software or automation that enables legacy systems to export data in a different format. Off-the-shelf products and/or custom development may be required. Given the length of municipal budget cycles, you should perform a readiness assessment as soon as possible and, based on the results, ask council to allocate funds so the money will be there when you need it. If you put off doing a readiness assessment, you may find it challenging to secure funding that covers the actual final cost.

3. Good understanding of new 9-1-1 Service Provider requirements

9-1-1 Service Providers have started engaging municipalities about a replacement for their existing 9-1-1 Provincial Emergency Response System (PERS) agreement. The new agreement will require your municipality to provide the 9-1-1 Service Providers with GIS data in a specific format and implement additional network security measures, among other things.

There will be a lot to absorb in the new agreement so you should request an advance copy from your 9-1-1 Service Providers right away. Municipal lawyers, GIS experts and administrators will all need to study it thoroughly and evaluate its impact on municipal operations, a process that can take months. If you don’t have a signed agreement in place by March 2025, along with a primary PSAP that has migrated to ESInet, your community may lose 9-1-1 service.

4. Timely adoption of a single map by all agencies

Under the current 9-1-1 system, municipalities may supply address change notifications and/or data to 9-1-1 Service Providers and PSAPs that have vastly different update cycles, leading to several active versions of a map. Such data mismatches can produce delays responding to emergency calls, putting the public at risk. The sooner you are ready for the transition to NG9-1-1, the sooner everyone can get on the same map and improve public safety.

5. Ability to formalize change management

Municipalities and 9-1-1 agencies presently maintain 9-1-1 data in their own unique way, with many issuing updates only every year or two. This approach won't work for NG9-1-1, which relies on the accuracy, currency and completeness of GIS data to locate emergency callers and events. Moving toward the recommended 72-hour automated update cycle for NG9-1-1 will likely require some degree of organizational change at your municipality.

To properly maintain GIS data and efficiently process updates, you will need to formalize your change management practices. This means reaching out to multiple departments, forming relationships and getting buy-in on new procedures and processes. A lot of people will be involved. We recommend making 9-1-1 GIS updates a part of departmental/employee KPIs to ensure that you’re measuring progress and hitting targets—and that someone is accountable.

5 reasons to prepare now for NG9-1-1

Give yourself enough time to succeed

To achieve NG9-1-1 readiness, you may need to significantly reengineer how your municipality collects, handles, maintains and distributes GIS data. You may also have to procure additional GIS tools and expertise. Before any of this can happen, though, you first need to initiate conversations about NG9-1-1 with other municipal departments, public safety administrators and your 9-1-1 Service Providers. There are a lot of moving parts involved in setting up NG9- 1-1 so it will probably take longer than you think. We strongly recommend starting now with an NG9-1-1 Readiness Assessment.

Special thanks to Holly Barkwell, NENA Canada president, and David Hamilton, Public Safety Industry Manager, for their contributions to this article.

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.

About the Author

Sharon Koch is a Senior Consultant at Esri Canada, specializing in next-generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) and public safety project implementations. She previously worked at Calgary 9-1-1 in various roles, notably supporting the organization’s transition to an IP phone system and NG9-1-1. Sharon is involved with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s Emergency Services Working Group and participates in a variety of Task Identification Forms (TIFs), where she contributes to industry discussions, reporting and documentation. She has a master’s degree in Professional Communication and recently earned the Emergency Number Professional (ENP) designation through the National Emergency Number Association (NENA).

Profile Photo of Sharon Koch