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The IJIS Factor is the IJIS Institute's blog that covers technology and information sharing and safeguarding topics, including national standards and initiatives.


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Text-to-911 Project Update

Posted By Michael Alagna, Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Text-to-911 is the ability to send a text message for help to a Public-Safety Answering Point (PSAP), a call center responsible for answering calls to an emergency telephone number for police, fire and rescue, and emergency medical services. Sending Text-to-911 from a mobile device is becoming more and more common across the U.S. Approximately 30% of the 6000 PSAPs in the U.S. have implemented Text-to-911.

There are individual and public safety scenarios where calling 911 is not optimal. Domestic violence situations, home break-ins, car jackings, mass shootings, and hostage situations are just a few examples where calling 911 might draw attention to victims and could cause additional danger for the caller or exacerbate the situation. In addition to these aspects of Text-to-911, authorities say it can alert them to crimes in progress, thereby adding an analytical element as well.

For many citizens, residents, and visitors in America with Limited English Proficiency (LEP), emergency situations can become compounded when trying to communicate with public safety officials. Census data reveals that 61 million people nationwide speak a language other than English in their home and approximately 28 million people are identified as Limited English Proficient. Phone usage data shows that around 90% of non-English 911 calls were conducted in Spanish, with other non-English calls spread out among 150 other languages. In many circumstances, not long after PSAPs implement Text-to-911, they begin to receive non-English texts. The public safety community has identified a need for Text-to-911 translation, and this project that IJIS Institute is participating in is positioned to make significant strides towards meeting this need and positioning PSAPs for future adoption of Next Generation (NG911) services.

PSAPs currently depend on machine translation for handling non-English Text-to-911; however, many remain highly skeptical of machine-translation software. On the other hand, machine translation is accessible for free, will convert text in any of roughly 100 languages, and continues to improve. Many of the machine translation concerns revolve around the understanding and meaning of a text message. The project team looks to examine the accuracy of machine translation and if understanding is needed for effective translation. We will compare human and machine translation to assure that Text-to-911 emergency calls are interpreted correctly.

In addition to machine translation, the project will enable PSAPs to access real-time human interpreters or interpreting services to translate non-English Text-to-911 calls for help. By investigating Language Service Provider (LSP) solutions for machine-translation in PSAPs, we will report on operational and technical findings and recommendations.

This project has put in motion a collaboration between industry technology providers, language service providers, standards development organizations, PSAPs, and policy makers to address interoperability, technology, standards, and the affordability of commercially-available, public-safety-grade solutions for Text-to-911 translation.

For more information on this project, please contact me at

Tags:  PSAP  Text-to-911  translation 

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IJIS Attends APCO Canada

Posted By Ashwini Jarral, Friday, November 16, 2018
Last week, the IJIS Institute staff attended and presented at the APCO Canada 2018 Conference & Tradeshow. The focus of APCO Canada was on innovative technology use and adoption, and its impact on professionals working in Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). There was great focus on staff wellness and how to ensure that the leaders in the public safety arena are addressing their staffs’ needs. Finally, the topic of procurement was also prevalent in the agenda and in the discussions among the participants.

There was a lot of discussion around Next Generation 911 roll out in Canada. In order to have a successful roll out, a coalition has been formed called the CanadianNG911 Coalition. This coalition presented at the conference and shared the roadmap and the timeline they have put together on the NG911 roll out in Canada. The IP-based ESInet will be available for critical voice communications by June 2020 and critical data will be available within 18 months of this timeline. All the legacy networks will be decommissioned by June 2023.  

The IJIS Institute staff participated on the panel discussion about Innovative NG911 Solutions: Advances in Emergency Communications Technologies. This panel covered the innovative developments in Next Generation 911, and the nature of emergency communications now and into the future. Emergency calling and data interoperability for emergency services are at a critical point, where the integration of networks and services sit on the verge of more widespread and essential interoperability.

It was shared during the conference that Canada has a nonprofit to address public safety health issues and this new entity is called the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CISPRT). The mission of the CISPRT is, “to provide a Canadian hub for strategic public safety wellness research and analysis, knowledge translation, and mobilization, working with public safety leaders and academics from across Canada to develop and deploy solutions that meet the current and future needs of Canadian Public Safety Personnel.” CISPRT is looking at mental health issues, not only among first responders, but is also expanding its research to include corrections officers.

Keynote speaker François Mathieu (Co-Executive Director, TEND) spoke about the impact of secondary trauma, compassion fatigue, burnout, self-care, wellness, and organizational health. François talked about how the PSAP staff should look at the model that companies like Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, and others are using with content moderator staff as these companies have figured out a model to ensure wellness of their content moderators. This model should be explored further for the first responders to ensure their safety and wellness. François also shared an assessment tool with attendees, Professional Quality of Life (PROQOL), that can be used to assess “Compassion Satisfaction and Compassion Fatigue.”

Looking at the conference topics and the discussion that the IJIS team had with the APCO Canada leadership, it is clear that IJIS Institute Members have lots of opportunities in Canada to support the first responder community with the technology adoption, information sharing, and interoperability.

Tags:  APCO  NG911  PSAP 

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