Hello everyone, I’m Ziggy Dahl. This is my first opportunity to speak with all of you as the new manager of the Enhanced 911 Office and Homeland Security Unit at the Emergency Management Division. By way of introducing myself, I’d like to talk with you about where we’re headed with Enhanced 911 in Washington State.
The State E911 Office is bringing Washington State into the 21st Century. We’re moving from a 60-year-old telephone-based 911 system to an updated Internet Protocol-based Next Generation 911 network (NG911 for short; also known as “ESInet”). With this evolutionary change comes a vastly expanded set of options for how our citizens will be able to communicate. When the transition is complete, they will be able to use nearly any device to make 911 calls via Voice, Text, and Images.
The State 911 Office gets 25 cents per month for each licensed ‘phone’ or device in Washington State. With nearly 7 million people in the state and more devices than there are people, that sounds like a lot of money. It is. But with it, come a couple of diametrically opposed challenges:
1. We are charged with doing nothing less than transforming an entire system that spans the width and breadth of Washington State. We are developing and upgrading the various nodes and branches of that system in order to reach every one of the 69 E911 call centers in Washington. The scope of complexity of this multi-faceted undertaking boggles the mind.
2. The speed with which we can implement these sweeping technological changes is limited. We must carefully assess the flow of E911 tax revenues and match those dollars with our needed tech changes. That means change will take longer to fully implement, and that we will periodically review our program to make certain we keep up with advances in technology.
As of today, we have the IP-backbone (ESInet) established, and we are in the process of converting equipment to take advantage of it. We’ve approved modernization of old 911 call center equipment in two counties, and are actively working with three other counties to modernize their equipment or to implement new concepts of operations. As we move forward with implementation, we will address and mitigate known, and previously unknown, short-comings. One example of this is that we are exploring new options to have truly geographically diverse paths of entry into the 911 centers.
Moving forward, everyone in the State 911 Office is committed to upholding these values:
Do no harmThe process of changing will be deliberate. While we create these enhanced capabilities, we must not threaten any portion of our current capability. We will not take risks as we transition through the system.
Be honest, transparent and responsiveCollaboration and teamwork with our various 911 Centers is the foundation upon which we will go through this transition.
Build an excellent teamWe need the right people to guide this change. We will spend the money to hire people who have the skill sets and knowledge to maintain an efficient and secure Next Generation 911 network. Thus far, we’ve hired an NG911 Information Technology Manager; and are in the final stages of hiring a NG911 IT Technical expert and a NG911 Technical Security expert.
Retain system securityAs we move from a closed telephone system to an IP-based system, we create more opportunity for cyber attack. With that in mind, we will build a system that is as secure possible. This requires extra time and expertise. In addition, we’ll reach out to specialists in the Cyber-Security realm to make our system secure.
Be device agnosticOur citizens need to get their request for help to the correct place, regardless of what device they use—a Princess phone, VOIP phone, home computer, tablet, smart phone or smart watch, or any other commonly used communications device. All devices must all be able to get a citizen’s request for help through our system to the appropriate responder. We will be able to process Voice, Text, and Images with equal efficiency.
Be excellent stewards of tax dollarsWe establish budget and program plans that match our revenues and meet our needs with a sharp eye towards getting the best results possible.
In closing, I need to say we are not there yet, but the State E911 Office has changed and is changing the way we operate, and we will get there. Our overarching goal is to assure Washington has the finest 911 system available anywhere. That means everywhere in Washington State. We appreciate your comments and input, and will periodically update you on our progress.
Sigfred “Ziggy” DahlE911/Homeland Security Unit Manager
Washington State Emergency Management