NHTSA selects vendor to test new 911 data-exchange model

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this month announced it’s selected the consulting firm Mission Critical Partners to conduct the next phase of a project to develop a common data framework for the nation’s 911 centers.

The firm is tasked with testing and evaluating a new data-exchange model designed to get the nation’s thousands of public safety answering points using a common data standard. Laurie Flaherty, coordinator of the National 911 Program under NHTSA, told StateScoop that using a common data standard wasn’t important in decades past when systems couldn’t communicate with each other, but the advent of a digital, next-generation 911 is quickly changing that.

“In the initial model, everyone had to have their own stuff and now they sort of have to understand the need to do things in a more uniform manner, including data,” Flaherty said. “And I mean the whole universe of 911 data — [computer-aided dispatch] data, operational data, financial data, you name it.”

Jackie Mines, a project manager at Mission Critical Partners, said it’s become more common recently for the state 911 officials and call center directors her company consults with to mention challenges in sharing data.

“We often hear that the issue of not being able to share data is becoming more and more problematic, because they are working together more to respond to an incident, they want to share resources, purchase different equipment that is like each other so that they can do more sharing of information, so I think the time is really prime for this demonstration,” Mines said.

The work is the latest phase of the NHTSA’s 911 DataPath Initiative, a nascent effort to ensure data uniformity across jurisdictions and automate data handling, among other goals that would facilitate an IP-based 911 environment. Flaherty said the latest phase of this project will use a subset of the total available 911 data called “administrative data for decision making.” Mines said this data set includes metrics like the total number of calls each center receives.

“It’s really about helping the local and the regional and the state entities make data-driven decisions, so if I’m going to go to my county board and ask for more money to hire more personnel because my call volume has increased, it would be helpful to have good data that shows that,” Mines said. 

Mines said one of the early steps has been to establish a common dictionary of terms so jurisdictions can communicate clearly. While Mission Critical Partners tests the data-exchange model, the federal government will continue to convene state and local public-safety officials, who’ve been crucial to ensuring that upgrades to the nation’s 911 systems meet the needs of those who administer emergency services in an increasingly digital world, Flaherty said.

“NG911 I think necessitates uniform data,” Flaherty said. “In the previous model, no one cared because they were all doing their own thing, they sort of had to do their own thing. As a federal agency, we’re sort of the Switzerland that tries to pull the community together.”

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911, data, data-sharing, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Public Safety
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