Next-Generation 911 (NG911) Dispatch: The Beginner's Guide

For those who’ve worked in public safety for the past two decades, Next-Generation 911 (NG911) may have begun to feel like a ghost. It's everywhere and nowhere (mostly the latter) and remains the industry’s resident “next big thing” that just hasn’t quite switched from “next” to “now.”

NG911 is, “A digital, internet protocol (IP)-based system that will replace the analog 911 infrastructure that’s been in place for decades,” per It promises increased compatibility with modern consumer technology, a more resilient national 911 system, improved emergency response, and more, per

With California expecting a full transition at some point before the end of 2024, Paul Troxel, 911 branch manager for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), said, “What we’re doing is we’re taking that old rotary-dial telephone and moving that aside, and we’re bringing you a new Apple or Android smartphone—with the newest operating system—that’s going to give you so much more capability. That’s what this plan is about.”

But what is it actually? Why do we need it? And why has it taken so long to transition?

Why do existing 911 systems need to be updated?

Even though a nationwide transition to NG911 is an overdue upgrade years in the making, those delays have not been borne out of a lack of utility. The NG911 Now Coalition, “whose members are working to address the funding, technical, policy and legislative challenges that have stalled more rapid NG911 implementation…comprised of leading 911 associations in the country,” outlines key reasons the transition needs to occur, including:

  1. Compatibility with consumer technology: of 240+ million 911 calls per year, over 80% originate from wireless devices. In 2024, a significant portion of these wireless devices are not smartphones with the ability to capture high-definition multimedia and quickly communicate non-verbally. The systems of 911 should have the same capabilities.
  2. Flexibility, reliability, and survivability: per NG911 Now, “Fully IP-based and standards-based NG911 systems will be more nimble, survivable, and resilient during disasters, allowing for more flexible network routing options to mitigate outages and reduce vulnerabilities that all lead to improved outcomes for the public.”
  3. Improved emergency response: as a provider of next-generation data, Prepared has seen time and time again how emergency response is improved by its incorporation into 9-1-1 processes.

9-1-1 must catch up with its callers and build a robust, secure, resilient system that drives lifesaving outcomes.

How is NG911 changing emergency response?

As emphasized by the NG911 Now Coalition, one of the most significant impacts of NG911 technology is its impact on emergency response. That starts with the ability to share new layers of data:

“Citizens in need of emergency assistance will be able to transmit photos, videos and other existing and future forms of broadband data and applications, in addition to voice, to 911 professionals. This could include streaming video from an emergency incident, photos of accident damage or a fleeing suspect, or medical information, all of which would greatly aid 911 professionals in assisting the caller or communicating with field responders and incident commanders.”

Each layer, whether photo, video, text, or otherwise, can bring a new element of aid to the emergency response process. Here’s what they look like in action.

Compatible with Modern Communication

The modern smartphone is a computer in the consumer’s pocket…that also happens to be able to take high-definition pictures and film-quality footage. Media has proven to be crucial during a variety of emergencies.

In North Dakota, a sheriff’s office received a 9-1-1 call from a young woman who had fallen off her patio. She was apprehensive and began crying hysterically over the phone. On the other end of the line, the dispatcher wanted to determine if the woman needed a life flight for urgent transportation to the hospital. With a limited number of helicopters and planes available, it’s vital to only deploy them for cases where they are definitively needed.

The dispatcher used Prepared Assist to collect a livestream of the fracture and verified that no bones were sticking out, confirming that it wasn’t a compound fracture. Without the ability to obtain media for the caller, the call would have been escalated to a critical emergency, with the nearest hospital 50 miles away.

Better Flexibility and Reliability

Any 9-1-1 telecommunicator will tell you that they never quite know what to expect on a given day at the center. Some days are filled with tourists asking for parking advice, others are back to back to back life-changing incidents that just won’t stop. Whether a caller is asking for simple help or their life is under threat, PSAPs need technology that is ready to meet the needs of the situation.

Eaton County 9-1-1 recently received a call on their non-emergency line from a woman in the Lansing area saying that her brother was having a medical emergency. The only problem? She had no idea where he was. Because the call came in on a non-emergency line, and the brother himself never called 9-1-1, Eaton County’s standard location technology was rendered ineffectual for this emergency. Fortunately, the telecommunicator was able to get the brother’s cell phone number from the woman and immediately sprang into action.

The telecommunicator called the brother, who he could tell was having a medical issue (as reported by the woman), and attempted to gain more clarity on the situation. He then decided he wanted to try to use Prepared Assist to gain access to livestream and GPS location, “I sent a Prepared Assist link to the brother and I walked him through how to click on the link.  [He] clicked the link and we were immediately able to see him, his hotel room, and his location - Addison, Illinois.”

What could have been an hours long process concluded in mere minutes as a result of the telecommunicator’s quick thinking to deploy Prepared Assist, gain access to GPS location, use video to see the hotel room number, and properly assess and pass on information regarding the caller’s condition to field responders.

Faster Emergency Response

Every single second counts during a medical emergency - it could be the difference between life and death. In a life or death situation, it took just one word for the Akron Police Department to get Michael McGough the medical attention he needed: “help.”

Just after midnight on November 9th, someone broke into his home and shot him. While he crawled to their neighbor’s home to get help, his female roommate, who requested anonymity while speaking to WOIO, hid in her bedroom and quietly called 9-1-1.

She was able to say “help” before abruptly ending the call. With only one word and a general location to work from, officers typically would’ve been forced to drive around the neighborhood in hopes they could locate the victim, losing critical time. Instead, with the help of Prepared, they were able to send Michael’s roommate a text.

According to a release on the Akron Police Department Facebook page, “When officers arrived, they located a 26-year-old male victim with an apparent gunshot wound to the upper body. Officers recognized that the victim was in critical condition and provided emergency first aid until EMS arrived. The victim was transported to the Cleveland Clinic Akron General Hospital, where he underwent surgery and is listed in serious but stable condition.”

“Technology is a great thing if it helps us,” Captain Laughlin of Akron PD concluded, “In this case, it did help to save this young man’s life, I think.”

What are the factors that agencies consider before upgrading?

Despite its promise, there’s a variety of reasons that NG911 has yet to become the standard nationwide. 9-1-1 directors must weigh numerous factors before deciding to transition. Additionally, state-mandated changes and governance structures may limit their ability to act independently. Here are a few of the factors that agency leaders weigh.


In early April the Congressional Research Service released a new report titled, “Funding the Transition to Next Generation 911 (NG911): Considerations for Congress.” The report states:

“A 2018 report to Congress by two federal agencies estimated costs of between $9.5 billion and $12.7 billion over 10 years to expand NG911 capabilities to all 911 call centers in the United States, which is currently estimated to be $12.8 billion to $16.9 billion when adjusted for inflation.”

The largest federal investment in 9-1-1 in American history represents far less than 5% of the high-end estimates in the report. Simply put: in most cases, 9-1-1 doesn’t have enough money to transition to NG911.

In Ohio, the state government implemented a statewide initiative to execute their transition:

“The statewide initiative will be supported by $46 million in funding from the state’s 2024-2025 operating budget, as well as a 15-cent increase to the existing cellphone surcharge fee, raising it to 40 cents per month. The increase began in January and is projected to go through September 2025.”

In lieu of federal funding, initiatives like Ohio have shifted the burden of the cost of NG911. That just might be what it takes.


The console of the modern telecommunicator would look futuristic to even the boldest of dreamers of the late 20th century. Screens stack on top of screens, keyboards and mice litter the desk, and good, old-fashioned paper backups remain, hidden behind the maze of wires. Each screen is dedicated to a specific technology or database that the telecommunicator might need on a given call, if not every call.

With the average response time for an emergency hovering around 5-6 minutes, the telecommunicator has to operate as a fine-tuned machine. Any small change or new technology that they have to learn could come at the cost of a life (through no fault of their own).

That’s why it’s essential for NG911 solutions to be as interoperable as possible. defines interoperability as, “the ability of disparate systems and the components of those systems to work together seamlessly.”

Every time an agency leader considers adopting a new technology, interoperability will inevitably be near the top of their thought processes.

How Prepared is built for the future of 911

Prepared Assist is not a NG911 platform. It does, however, bring NG911 data into the PSAP, providing many of the benefits of NG911 without the same lengthy implementation cycles and budget debates. Additionally, the incorporation of Artificial Intelligence into the platform has ensured that agencies can augment their next-generation functionality with the best in consumer technology.

Not only is Prepared Assist affordable and customizable for each agency, it’s also interoperable with other leading technologies.

As outlined above, our NG911 data has made a significant impact in communities around the country. Livestream helped save 14 people stranded on an ice floe in frigid Michigan, text helped a police department apprehend a murder suspect, and photos have kickstarted investigations for missing children…and that’s just the beginning.

Want to see for yourself? Click here to learn more about how Prepared Assist can be the next-generation solution that your agency needs.

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