How PSAPs Can Comply With NENA’s 911 Standards

Written by KOVA Corp

The National Emergency Number Association, or NENA, sets strict criteria in multiple areas of the emergency response process. Its standards are the gold standard of compliance in the industry, and following them will ensure that you’re ready to meet any emergency like a pro. After all, 911 dispatchers save lives every day, and the more efficient you are, the better you are at serving the public.

NENA’s standards include the following segments: Accessibility, Agency Systems, Core Services, Interconnection & Security, NG9-1-1 Transitioning Planning, and PSAP Operations.


Younger generations are less comfortable than any before with phone calls, and 64 percent prefer text messaging to phone calls as their primary method of contact.

Alice, 42, is one of the people who prefer SMS to audio conversations. She has laryngeal cancer that created chronic hoarseness, meaning that it’s difficult for people to understand her through a phone.

“I don’t know what I would do if there was an emergency and I needed to call 911,” she said. “Sometimes even my friends and family don’t know what I’m trying to say, much less a complete stranger during a scary situation.”

To keep up with the changing needs of the populations, your PSAP needs to make SMS familiarity a priority if it hasn’t already. This may involve learning common text abbreviations and creating a guide to communicating with brevity. To make the service more accessible with those with disabilities, you may also consider providing alternative ways of giving feedback, like visual or nonverbal responses.

Improving Agency Systems standards

This committee tests and defines the tools your PSAP uses to make sure they’re up-to-date and able to respond to emergency calls. Many of our clients have contacted us after wondering if their dusty old equipment was in compliance of NENA standards, and instead of wondering, the easiest way to comply is to entrust KOVA with your public safety software solutions.

KOVA’s Verint Media Recorder for Public Safety suite offers the latest technology and gives you all the tools you need to comply with federal, state, board, or agency mandates for call handing evaluation and reporting.

Improving Core Services standards

While protocol may seem overly stuffy or even frivolous in the realms of etiquette or dating, in your contact center, it is absolutely essential.

Your PSAP’s resident data entry team should be intimately familiar with all format protocol, because entering the information any other way may undermine the entire 9-1-1 system architecture. A typo can endanger lives or threaten the credibility of your records.

Your dispatchers should also understand geographical zoning—in other words, which calls are routed to which place.

Interconnection & Security

This set of standards deal with the actual medium of the call, its connection, and the quality of the audio. Dropped 911 calls have caused concern in states as disparate as Tennessee and Pennsylvania in recent years.

"We expect 911 to be there throughout our entire call," Theresa Allocca, a victim's mother, said.

Your dispatchers need to understand how to handle call connection as well as the max volume of calls. If your PSAP is routinely getting congested, you’ll need to change the infrastructure to allow everyone to get through.

NG911 Transitioning

The aim of the NG911 movement is to transition from the traditional methods of operating a PSAP to a “next generation” model. This will continue to happen in the next few years, and your contact center is advised to prepare by moving as much of its data into NG911 infrastructure as possible.  While a full-featured, completely standard-based NG911 system hasn’t been developed fully, it is in the works and PSAPs should be prepared.

PSAP Operations

When the unspeakable happens, 911 is the first to be contacted by Americans in crisis. The PSAP Committee provides drills for these anomalies, from natural disasters to power outages. Your contact center needs to practice these drills regularly so that the unexpected occurs, your dispatchers are prepared.

After all, public safety answering points need to be available around the clock, every single day. No matter the technical malfunction, epidemic, or flood, your dispatchers need to be ready to react. These extenuating occasions, your traditional response protocol won’t work. You need to have contingency plans readied, implemented, communicated, activated, and evaluated.

For example, in the occasion of geographic information system failure, supervisors should tell operators to use physical maps; if half of the dispatchers are out on sick leave, the Operations Officer should know to activate the “re-routing of calls to buddy” procedure.

Is Your Organization Ready to Optimize their Public Safety Systems?