Recommendations for Improving 9-1-1 Call Center Operations

Wireless Emergency Technology 2


The following recommendations for improving Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) call center operations were discussed during the 9-1-1 Call Center Operations and Next Generation 9-1-1 Technologies Summit, February 6, 2008.

Summit Participants

Opening Remarks: Derek Poarch, Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB)

Moderator: Jeffery Goldthorp, Division Chief, Communications Systems Analysis Division, PSHSB

Panel 1: Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs)
Use of Technology Today
Panel 2: Next Generation 9-1-1


Gil Bailey
Deputy Director, Harrison (MS) County Emergency Communications Commission

John D. Crawford
Commander, Arlington County (VA) Emergency Public Safety Communications Center

Sheri Farinha-Mutti
Chair, E911 Access Stakeholder Council, Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI)

Steve Marzolf
Integrated Services Director, Virginia Information Technologies Agency

Richard Taylor
Executive Director, North Carolina 911 Board


Paul Delorimiere
Executive Director, Emergency Communications Products and Services, Verizon

Laurie Flaherty
Program Analyst, Office of EMS, U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Roger Hixson
Technical Issues Director, 911 National Emergency Number Association (NENA)

Jim Kohlenberger
Executive Director, The Voice on the Net (VON) Coalition

Martial Manfre
Senior Manager, Process and Implementation, National Customer Activation; Repair, Comcast


Recommendations for Improving

Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) Call Center Operations

  1. PSAPs should develop comprehensive plans to address day-to-day operations, emergencies, and mutual aid with other PSAPs and jurisdictions.

  • Pre-plan and involve both PSAP call centers and communications providers.  It is critical to plan properly and obtain a commitment from communications providers. Arlington County and others in the Northern Virginia region or partners have done tabletop exercises, developed plans, and put procedures into place to address large-scale disasters that disrupt communications.


  • Plan for all types of events, both those that result in large-scale loss of communications infrastructure and those for which communications is largely left intact. Large-scale loss of communications infrastructure will require network restoration and repair. Communications largely left intact will result in higher PSAP call volumes.


  • Plan for increased call volumes.  Catastrophes and large-scale disasters result in increased call volume.  PSAPs should ensure that they have adequate facilities, functional equipment, and the appropriate amount of personnel to handle massive call volume. PSAPs should also have re-routing plans in place to handle overflow situations.


  • Develop mutual aid plans over large geographical areas. When a catastrophic disaster occurs, it has a regional impact. PSAPs should develop mutual aid plans to ensure an adequate response and to provide coverage of all affected areas.


  • Plan backup capability in the event of a PSAP outage. PSAPs that provide reverse 9-1-1 capabilities and emergency alert announcements (e.g., evacuation instructions) should plan for alternate capabilities in the event of a total loss of the PSAP.

  1. PSAP plans and procedures should be routinely practiced and updated to include lessons learned. Training exercises should be realistic and challenge the comprehensiveness of the emergency plan.

  • Practice implementing emergency plans.  Practice the plan jointly with communications providers and PSAPs. Obtain written commitments from communications providers that describe what they will provide, points of contact, and the staging points.

  1. PSAP equipment and procedures should be standardized at local, state, regional, and federal levels, to facilitate mutual aid and emergency backup.

  • PSAP staff from other areas could relieve the understaffed PSAP.  The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) are working together on the Telecommunicator Emergency Response Team (TERT).  TERT is a program that includes assistance to individual states in developing programs to establish predetermined and selected trained teams who can mobilize quickly and deploy to assist communications centers during disasters.


  • PSAP operators should develop a standardized checklist to respond to emergencies.  This checklist should include provisions to address the special needs of the deaf and hard of hearing.

  1. PSAPs should ensure that 9-1-1 services are accessible to all people, including those with hearing and speech disabilities.


  • PSAPs should develop checklists of standard operating procedures to improve accessibility to people with hearing and speech disabilities.

  1. PSAPs should learn from best practices of industry call centers and communication hubs.

  • Commercial companies that operate large call centers have sophisticated strategies for sharing call load. PSAPs can learn from commercial companies that achieve skillful load balancing among multiple call centers.