Newswise — WASHINGTON The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), in partnership with the Department of Transportation (DoT), has selected the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI), a DHS Center of Excellence led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), to develop a framework and process for testing the interoperability and compatibility of Next Generation 911 (NG911) systems.

NG911 refers to an updated version of the current nationwide emergency response system operating on an Internet Protocol (IP) platform that will enable voice, video, photographs, text, and future communications technologies to be transmitted to and by the public and first responders for assistance. This could include streaming video from an emergency incident, photos of accident damage, or medical information, which would greatly benefit 911 professionals in assisting those who call 911 as well as emergency responders on the scene. NG911 will also enable call transfer among 911 centers in times of call overload which may occur during natural disasters or other catastrophic incidents. The current 911 system has none of these capabilities.

CIRI’s project’s research team includes UIUC, Texas A&M and the University of Washington. Research will focus on understanding and obtaining end-user consensus on requirements for interoperability and compatibility testing. The team will also focus on identifying the approach for establishing a program for defining test approach and a proven and formal approach for ensuring interoperability. The program will engage with key stakeholders within DHS, DoT, Department of Defense, and public safety agencies at large, along with industry and academia to develop approach and testing requirements. 

“There are numerous vendors developing solutions in the NG911 ecosystem to ensure that interoperability and compatibility across systems will provide effective responses and address vital needs to truly support emergency communications needs,” said Sridhar Kowdley, S&T Program Manager.

The research project supports the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which ensures federal, state, local, tribal and territorial agencies have the necessary plans, resources, and training to support operable and advanced interoperable emergency communications.

“Establishing a nationwide, seamless system of 911 systems is dependent upon interconnection and interoperability. Only by establishing testing requirements will true interoperability be ensured,” said Laurie Flaherty, Coordinator of the National 911 Program, which is housed within the DoT.

For more information about the DHS Centers of Excellence, contact [email protected].