In any emergency situation, it’s important that all people have access to the help they need. Traditional (or legacy) 9-1-1 systems have tactics in place to support individuals with disabilities. It does a great job with the limited technology available to it. But, next generation 9-1-1 technology goes a step further as it has access to new or more advanced features and technology. Below, our team of experts details how NG9-1-1 is transforming emergency communication to be more accessible and inclusive for all.

Next Generation 9-1-1 Vs. Legacy 9-1-1 Systems

  1. Text-to-911

    1. Legacy: This feature is important for those who are not able to communicate verbally due to a disability or a situation. While it has existed for quite some time in legacy 9-1-1 services, it has a few limitations. While it handles basic SMS text messages, it does not support multimedia messages like photos, videos, or location data. Legacy systems also typically operate on older infrastructure like traditional phone lines or basic SMS gateways. This may lead to slower message delivery and, in general, less reliable service than Next Gen 9-1-1.
    2. Next Gen: The Next Gen 9-1-1 technology offers enhanced capabilities supporting a wider range of communication methods like SMS, MMS, and RTT. Therefore, allowing photos and videos to be shared with emergency responders as needed. Note that while sharing these photos and videos can be a huge benefit for communication purposes, there is also concern for the call taker if there is graphic footage that has to be shared. As the industry works to find a middle ground, PSAPs have increased awareness and accessibility for mental health support.


  2. Real-Time Text (RTT):

    1. Legacy: In general, RTT allows messages to be seen as a person is typing rather than having to wait for the completed message to be sent. This allows for a more interactive communication process during an emergency. RTT is a feature exclusive only to Next Generation 9-1-1. Since legacy 9-1-1 systems are typically based on older, circuit-switched technology to support traditional voice calls and basic SMS messages, they do not have the capability to support instantaneous transmission, which is a core requirement for RTT.
    2. Next Gen: RTT works with next gen technology because it uses an IP-based infrastructure which allows for seamless and rapid transfer of data. Additionally, it is designed to handle high volumes of data very efficiently which is crucial for RTT as each character must be transferred across devices immediately. This is an important feature for everyone, including individuals who cannot quickly verbalize or share information with PSAPs.
  3. More Precise Location Data:

    1. Legacy: When it comes to location data, legacy systems can pinpoint a caller’s location but it does have limitations due to the technology it relies on. Generally, to capture this information, legacy systems will rely on location data from SMS networks which can be inaccurate or not precise.
    2. Next Gen: In addition to being an IP-based infrastructure, NG9-1-1 systems incorporate Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to more accurately pinpoint a caller’s location. GIS can integrate additional detailed map information like property boundaries, building footprints, road networks, and more. Also, NG9-1-1 can give Z-axis information identifying a vertical location for the caller which is very important for multi-story complexes. Again, this is beneficial information for everyone so first responders can more accurately locate the caller before even arriving at the scene. But, it is especially important for individuals who may not be able to easily travel up and down multi-story units or verbalize their exact location.
  4. Compatibility with Assistive Technologies:

    1. Legacy: To support individuals with accessibility needs, legacy systems can use teletypewriter (TTY) devices and a few can even integrate with video relay services (VRS), captioned telephones, or screen readers – although most cannot. The challenge in general with legacy systems and their compatibility, or integration, with assistive technologies is that they rely heavily on voice communication. As mentioned above, text-to-911 is available, however, most communication options require voice. This can be a limitation for some individuals.
    2. Next Gen: NG9-1-1 is designed to seamlessly integrate with various assistive technologies, including teletypewriter (TTY) like legacy systems, but also video relay services (VRS), captioned telephones and screen readers. People who rely on such technologies can now connect to emergency services without barriers.

The Impact on Emergency Response

The inclusive aspects of Next Generation 9-1-1 have broad implications in emergency response. For example, with more accurate location data and text messaging, responders can react even faster and more efficiently. It also means a better view of the situation through more precise multimedia messaging and the ability to see a clear picture of the emergency before arrival at the scene. This allows the dispatcher and first responder to better prepare and make an action plan en route. While legacy networks still provide options for people with disabilities to communicate with emergency services, NG9-1-1 advancements and features help make this communication process more efficient and, in general, provide more contact options. Therefore, these advancements foster greater independence and confidence in those reaching out for help when needed.

Next Generation 9-1-1 and Accessibility

Next Generation 9-1-1 is an advancement that helps provide a more accessible and inclusive emergency response system, making our world a safer place for everyone. To learn more about advancements in Next Generation 9-1-1 or to discuss implementing it in your county/state, contact our team of experts today!