A new pact among public-safety organizations in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Europe will accelerate innovation in the three-digit emergency-communications systems that serve almost 1 billion citizens.

NENA, the 9-1-1 Association that serves the public safety community as a professional organization solely focused on 9-1-1 policy, technology, operations, and education issues, leaders of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, Canada (APCO Canada), the British Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (BAPCO), and the European Emergency Number Association (EENA) pledged to work together to promote the most current and commonly accepted technologies, standards and best practices in the field.

Specifically, the alliance will promote standards-based Next Generation emergency-communications frameworks such as the ones enabled by the i3 standard for NG9-1-1 in North America and the NG1-1-2 standard in Europe. Under both frameworks, requests for emergency help are handled in a modern, Internet Protocol-based multimedia environment, as opposed to the voice- and landline-centric frameworks of the past.

Some additional activities planned under the pact include wider dialogue and collaboration in standards development; greater participation in each other’s events; and increased sharing of research findings, training materials, and case studies that can help improve the health, wellness, and performance of emergency-communications professionals no matter which continent they work on. Further, the group hopes to serve as a facilitator for new technologies and services that can improve public safety on a global scale.

According to a NENA press release, this agreement is a major milestone for the public-safety community, and for billions of people worldwide for several reasons:

1. The need for Next Generation three-digit emergency-communications solutions is global. The challenges of upgrading legacy emergency-calling systems to take advantage of the latest information and communications technologies (ICT) are not limited to any one country. "Public safety agencies and technology vendors face the same basic challenges in this field; billions of consumers use common handsets and software apps; and the ICT supply chain spans the globe. It’s time for stakeholders around the world to come together to promote shared progress," says NENA.

2. The standards and technology exist; what’s needed is a big boost. The i3 standard for NG9-1-1 in North America and the NG1-1-2 standard in Europe have been thoroughly researched and vetted through a years-long, open, transparent process. These frameworks are proven and widely supported. "What’s needed now is for public-safety organizations to promote and implement these frameworks more aggressively; for industry to continue innovating within commonly-accepted frameworks; and for policy makers to provide the leadership and funding to get new technology and training into the field faster," says NENA.

3. A wider common market means deeper benefits. This pact effectively creates a much larger market for those who want to build standards-compliant Next Generation systems, and the signatories are working to bring even more organizations into the consortium. A larger market attracts more vendors, technical talent and competition – and greater competition leads to more innovation and lower prices – all of which accelerates the adoption of Next Generation services that ultimately benefit not just dispatchers or those in need of emergency assistance, but also field responders and taxpayers, says NENA.