TRANSFORM911Blueprint Chapter Eight

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Strengthening Data and Tech Standards

Reliable and ethical data and tech improves responses.

What are we calling for? We are calling for uniform 911 minimum data standards and improved data collection practices, as well as the development and maintenance of transparent, consistent policies on the ethical use of technology and data in emergency response. This covers data privacy and algorithmic transparency for software systems built around emergency response data. Furthermore, we are calling for the adoption of clear and specific guidelines for standardizing, sharing, and making available emergency response data across the nation.

Why is this essential? Variances in data collection and transparency processes across jurisdictions, and the lack of a national 911 data collection effort, have hampered our ability to leverage data in the current state of things. Innovation and rapid, nationwide systemic improvements are made possible when data on emergency calls, responses, and outcomes are made available.

While we hold data transparency as a core value, we also recognize that emergency call data does include a host of highly sensitive and personal information. Callers to 911 must have the peace of mind that their wellbeing will not be undermined through the sharing of information that they assumed was private. Ethical and transparent communication and methods around getting caller consent for response and sharing information is essential.

Modern emergency management relies on the deployment of modern technology, not only to manage the response to emergencies, but to ensure that the public is able to access emergency services through technological means that work best for them. Ethical deployment of tech includes increasing equity in 911 coverage, as much as possible, for example, by using things like tele-response in rural and tribal areas.

The future will bring further developments in augmented intelligence, but as more and more information produced by automated systems is used to guide decision-making, it is essential that the algorithms employed are transparently developed and examined for inequitable outcomes. In short: if automated systems are guided by the inequitable decision-making processes of the past, inequity will be further baked into our systems.

To this end, recommendations below reflect that:

It’s not just about calls. Just as one might not have imagined the shift from landline to wireless calls to 911 in the course of a couple of decades,[1] a similar shift will occur over the next 20 years with the internet of things. Given the proliferation of apps, texting, wearable devices, drones, alarm systems, fire sensors, weather data, traffic data, and telemetry in general—the future emergency communications center will have a lot more data, coming from a lot more sources.

It’s not just about people. To handle the increased volume of information for ECCs, augmented intelligence (AI) will be essential to consistent and efficient emergency response. Software will be involved with everything from triage, diagnosis, classification, dispatch recommendation, automation, and even response. As AI involvement increases, so too does the possibility of exacerbating bias and inequities in emergency response.


1. Adopt end-to-end NG911[2] to create equitable and effective emergency response outcomes.

  • Improve the security, reliability, and geolocation of emergency services in order to ensure better outcomes for callers, improve response times, and respond more efficiently to mitigate harms and save lives.
  • Improved interoperability and accessibility to allow for tailored services for multiple languages and individuals with disabilities, creating more equitable access to emergency services. Note: these advantages are only available when originating service providers are delivering calls on a modern IP (Internet Protocol) network.
  • Promote better sharing of data among agencies, jurisdictions, hotlines, and first responders to allow for more appropriate response to a range of community needs. (Please note that not all data should be shared—see below, Action Item 2 under this current recommendation and chapter, which pertains to emergency services data ethics).

2. Develop and maintain a policy on the ethical use of technology and data in emergency response, which covers data privacy and algorithmic transparency for software systems built around emergency response data.

  • Establish a national taskforce with a clear goal for ensuring data privacy, algorithmic transparency, and oversight in emergency response systems and with all stakeholders represented: impacted communities, vendors, 911 administrators, telecommunicators, first responders, behavioral health specialists, technologists, and policymakers.
  • Technology ethics would cover the algorithms used in decision-making-–how they are developed, who owns the right to “know” what goes into the AI/machine learning that is developed, in addition to where and how the training data is sourced, etc. This would change the sales cycle (and market for 911 tech), as a fire or police chief could ask, “How many of these guidelines does your technology meet?”
  • Balance the collection of more data to improve service delivery with the privacy rights and protections afforded to all people. If we see the first responder ecosystem as having a role to play in addressing behavioral health and related issues, then what they know must be shared with organizations like treatment and housing, and vice versa, in ways that still protect people’s privacy.
  • Develop clear, plain language and explanations on the use of emergency response data including a description and purpose of any software algorithms, the data used, mechanisms for human oversight, and any risk-mitigation techniques.
  • Establish public registers of 911 algorithms: a standardized and searchable archive of algorithmic development, implementation, maintenance, and sunsetting.
  • Algorithmic transparency may also include mandatory reporting requirements and the ability for callers and communities to request the data behind algorithmic decisions.
  • As an example, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, established a public algorithms taskforce in 2020. This taskforce has spent the last two years reviewing data, exploring potential problem areas, and identifying best practices; it recently released its first report.

3. Support the refinement, maintenance, and adoption of uniform data standards for incident data to enable government transparency, achieve equity, and improve outcomes of emergency response.

  • A common standardized approach to call classification, grounded in evidence, will provide a basic framework for communicating best practices in call response. This begins with 911 configuration.
  • To promote true interoperability among vendors, agencies, jurisdictions, and hotlines/responders, additional work must be done to further define uniform data standards and registries for call types, dispositions, etc.
  • The 911 Data Path project is a good example of a project taking that next step with an open call for standardization efforts.
  • Further efforts should be made to clarify the intended use for these data, as this will influence how the data are presented and/or made available.

4. Empower and incentivize ECCs with modern tools by using dedicated shared services models and cloud-based services to improve consistency and quality of service.

  • Move to cloud-based technology/shared service models for emergency response to lower the cost of change and encourage consolidation across jurisdictions, leveraging hybrid cloud/premise models to account for performance/connectivity issues.
  • Provide on-demand availability in disaster situations where the demand for seats is elastic.
  • Empower state 911 authorities to promote the sharing of ECC services, achieve economies of scale, and improve response times and lives saved.
  • Encourage small ECCs (74% of all ECCs employ three or fewer telecommunicators)[3] to leverage one another’s resources when migrating to next-generation technology (research, training, purchasing, and maintenance).

5. Develop an emergency services procurement hub: a unified and searchable website that helps emergency services professionals navigate the complex world of funding, technology, and operations related to emergency services.

  • Many valuable resources exist today but are not well known. There is a lack of clear, well-known, and actionable information: create a hub for all of the information that’s already out there while making it more accessible and easily searchable with plain language and guides specific to industry and buying needs, request for proposal (RFP) templates and boilerplate starting points for the industry—and provide a clear focus on what specific standards are absolutely necessary and why. Some example resources include:
    • USDS TechFAR Hub provides basic principles and case studies for agile procurement processes.
    • Evidence-Based Practices Resource Center of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides a programs and practices directory that could be used for industry professionals to share their most effective strategies and tactics with other jurisdictions in a more timely fashion.
    • The Unified CAD Functional Requirements of the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials (APCO) and Integrated Justice Information Systems Institute and the work of National Emergency Number Association (NENA).
    • Share boilerplate legislation, policy, and procurement tactics (piggyback contracts and national contract vehicles like HGACBuy and CoProcure).
  • Coordinate broadly, outside the industry, on best practices for modern procurement that fosters innovation and is responsive to the needs of the ECC workforce and the communities they serve, including lessons learned from NASCIO and NASPO in addition to those from NENA, APCO, USDS TechFAR Hub, and Procurement Innovation Resources from the IJIS Institute.
    • Work to bring vendors to the table as well.
  • Develop specific examples of common language to be included in any emergency-response-related RFP.
    • Standardizing RFP/contractual language around data ownership and immediacy of access for reporting purposes is essential to ensuring efficient operations of ECCs. Transform911 recommends the widespread consideration, adaptation where/when necessary, and adoption of the following California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services standards:[4]
      • All 911 traffic data shall be the property of the ECC/PSAP. All meta-data shall be the property of the state 911 authority. All 911 traffic data and meta-data shall not be accessed or distributed by any contractor or any of its subcontractors.
      • All 911 call data records are the property of the state 911 authority and shall be made available to the ECC/PSAP and stored in the system for a minimum of one year, with the ability for the ECC/PSAP to download the data for local storage. The contractor shall utilize Session Internet Protocol (SIP) metadata and i3[5] logging to monitor, track, and verify data flow as a part of the call data records. All NG 911 metadata shall have a 10-year retention period.
      • All 911 Traffic Data, all CAD data, and all data sharing data authorized to be shared by the ECC/PSAP as part of this service is the property of the ECC/PSAP and shall be retained in the system for a minimum of one year, with the ability for the ECC/PSAP to download the data for local storage.
    • Volume-based pricing provides fewer challenges to training, maintenance, and redundancy for ECC operations than per-seat licensing.
    • Encourage public sharing of 911 call data for transparency and research purpose.

6. Collect data to understand what the response should be.

  • Understand that particular places, as well as particular groups of people, have particular needs. To that end, collect and analyze data on a geographic level, and make sure marginalized groups are given attention in the data.
  • Embed the costs of data analysis in funding structures, in recognition that small agencies may not have the resources to collect or analyze data themselves.
  • Acknowledge the limits of quantitative data and accept that it will not be feasible to study everything before implementing solutions.
  • Highlight stories and qualitative data to craft compelling narratives and use quantitative data to support.

7. Require ECCs to offer all advanced services including text-to-911[6] and have the ability to receive enhanced location data multimedia in compliance with the i3 standards (particularly for people with disabilities and people for whom English is not a first language).

  • The public expectation of what services are available in our nation’s ECCs has greatly outpaced reality. ECCs that have upgraded the infrastructure and now offer true NG911[7] services enjoy a more secure, redundant, flexible, and accessible system.
  • The time has come to standardize the 911 experience across the nation. With cybersecurity being a top priority for ECCs and government entities, federal and state legislatures should pass laws and assign financial resources for all ECCs to elevate to this more secure and complete level of service.

8. Develop a credentialing process for technology vendors to apply and demonstrate compliance with all industry American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards.

  • The two largest emergency communication industry associations[8] have coordinated the creation of much-needed standards that have been vetted and certified by the ANSI. The standards address many topics: training, hiring, operations, and technology. Vendors often state “Meets ANSI Standards” in their marketing materials. It is recommended that the associations create a collaborative credentialing process to ensure that vendors are making accurate statements in regard to their standards compliance.



[1] The National Emergency Number Association estimates that, in most parts of the US, upward of 80% of 911 calls nationwide currently originate from wireless devices,
[2] NG911 is the preferred title for Next Generation 911 technology. More information about NG911 can be accessed at
[3] Industry experts at the National Emergency Number Association provided this estimate during a Transform911 interview on April 11, 2022.
[4] As shared by current National Association of State 911 Administrators Board President and California Governor’s Office Emergency Services 9-1-1 Branch Manager, Budge Currier.
[5] “i3” refers to the NG911 system architecture defined by NENA, which standardizes the structure and design of Functional Elements making up the set of software services, databases, network elements and interfaces needed to process multi-media emergency calls and data for NG9-1-1. More information can be accessed at
[6] Teletypewriter (TTY), real-time-text, multimedia text (including voice, video, data)
[7] NG911 refers to a nationwide initiative to upgrade 911 from analog phone systems to Internet Protocol (IP)-based systems that are capable of handling text and multimedia messages.
[8] Association of Public Safety Communication Officials (APCO) and National Emergency Number Association (NENA)

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